British scientists are asking fellow scientists around the world to help China reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the development and implementation of carbon capture and storage technology (CCS technology). The call reflects the blunt reality that China is putting a new coal-fired power plant into service every week, on average, to support its rapidly growing need for energy to fuel rapid economic growth. Coal currently supplies about 70% of China’s electricity needs, and the percentage seems destined to increase.
The British announcement was made at a recent Shanghai Expo that highlighted economic growth and opportunities in the Asian country. Professor Mike Stephenson, director of the UK National Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage, explained why he felt compelled to be in Shanghai. “To put it bluntly, China is going to need to burn coal in quite staggering quantities if it is to sustain its current economic growth during the decades ahead.”
Professor Stephenson is absolutely right. And the resulting greenhouse gas emissions that China will be producing as a result will swamp those from the rest of the world. Indeed, even as the USA and countries in Europe are moving toward implementation of alternatives to coal as part of a move toward cleaner energy production China is racing ahead with coal-fired power plants with no thought about anything except producing power-regardless of the environmental consequences.
Carbon capture and storage technology has the potential to dramatically curtail carbon dioxide emissions from power stations and other industrial sources. A report prepared by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prepared in 2005 estimated that CCS technology could bring about a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions. Offering technical assistance from scientists in the rest of the world to help China reduce its carbon footprint is a important and noble gesture. Developing better working relationships with Chinese academic institutions and leading industrial companies is a useful first step. Already the Brutish Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage has established collaborative projects with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and key Chinese universities in an attempt to focus the attention of key researchers on the significant challenges in making carbon capture technology a reality.
However, the efforts so far appear to be largely one-sided. While British and other western scientists are offering technical assistance and support for developing carbon capture and storage technology in China, the Chinese are offering mostly talk. Even though China has the world’s most rapidly growing economy, the country’s leadership still feels that the western world should develop the technology an offer it to China, rather than China paying its fair share of the development cost.
This amounts to little more than extortion by China’s leadership. As the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China needs to pay most of the cost of developing and implementing CCS technology to solve what is increasingly a burden that China is imposing on the rest of the world.