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Economy: China's Ability to Tackle Greenhouse Gas Caps

Interviewee: Elizabeth C. Economy
Interviewer: Toni Johnson
September 27, 2007

China is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gas but is not subject to binding emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol. But given China ’s rapidly-developing, energy-hungry economy with its out-of-control industrial pollution problems, just what could China do on climate change if it were to agree to binding targets? Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow and director for Asia Studies, says first it would depend on the nature of the caps, noting “they would need to be fairly limited and sort of slow rise over time.”

Economy says several factors would have to come together in order for China to implement the agreement, including top-down pressure and a wholesale education effort for the population, which is not “terribly aware of global climate change.” There would also need to be capacity building and an enforcement mechanism. She points out the “terrible corruption” in China. “The easiest way not to do something is to bribe somebody,” she says. And finally, Economy argues there would need to be “some serious support” from the international community. “The key to I think to successful implementation is a wholesale mindset change in China,” she says.


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