06/22/2007, 00.00
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China becomes top polluter ahead of United States

Dutch agency reports China’s carbon dioxide emissions higher than those of the United States. China dismisses estimate and insists it will not limit its economic growth. Experts say that irrespective of the data, any agreement to limit green house gases must involve every country.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In 2006 China became the world’s top polluter ahead of the United States with 6.2 billion tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions last year, 8 per cent more than the erstwhile leader. Chinese authorities immediately dismissed the report and refused to take countermeasures.

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said on Tuesday that its estimates are based on fossil fuel (oil and coal) and energy use from the International Energy Agency and British Petroleum, and cement data from the US Geological Survey.

Beijing has hit back at the accusations. Lu Xuedu, from the Ministry of Science and Technology, questioned the purpose and credibility of the Dutch report and dismissed it as "meaningless.”

“We don't even have the 2006 data, which can't be available until the end of 2007, and I do not know how they get theirs,” he said

But for Jos Olivier, a senior scientist with the Dutch agency, the real issue is not whether China pollutes more than the United States, but “whether/when/to what extent China, as well as other developing countries, should be included in quantified greenhouse gas emission mitigation agreements of any kind,” he said.

The mainland released 5.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2004, according to its first national plan on climate change.

According to the Dutch agency's report, the mainland's emissions in 2005 were 2 per cent below those of the United States.

China, like India and other developing countries, refuses to take steps against green house gases insisting that its economic growth should not be sacrificed in global efforts to combat climate change, and that per capita emissions of carbon dioxide are more telling than absolute national totals in global comparisons.

Olivier insists that “[e]verybody acknowledges that CO2 emissions cannot be curbed overnight so an agreement on mitigation paths is required to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions over time.”

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