Before you start reading the blog below, consider the following THREE facts about aluminium and China:
1. China is now the world’s largest producer (> 50%) of primary aluminum using mostly (> 80%) coal-generated electricity;
2. Production of primary aluminum requires large quantity of electricity, and therefore emits a large quantity of GHG (12 tonnes of CO2eq per tonne of aluminum); and
3. China is also the world’s largest emitter of CO2, the main component of GHG.
China’s growing economy has had a severely negative impact on its environment. As a tactic to reverse the threats of climate change, the Chinese Government announced it would “name and shame” China’s worst cities and factories into publicly revealing their environmental standards. The government has also set a goal of curbing emissions in major industries by 30% by the end of 2017.
China’s pollution has taken its toll on its citizens: this month, a new study revealed that air pollution from coal combustion has decreased life expectancy by over five years in various areas of the country. Previously in 2013, a harsh smog over China and stocks of rice — contaminated with the toxin cadmium — produced public outrage.
The Chinese government has been met with much opposition, namely from local governments, which will make it even that more difficult to implement and carry out new environmental policy; many local governments work on a system that remunerates officials solely based on economic performance. Beijing will be the first city to promote local officials on both economic and environmental accomplishments.
China has pledged to control its energy intensity — energy used per unit of economic output — there is little chance that we will see a direct descent in emissions. Just recently, China and the US both decided to scale back on a particular type of greenhouse gas; but China retorted that developed countries must set an example by successfully limiting carbon emissions.
For the last few years, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has calculated the country’s “green GDP”, as a means to estimate the unseen costs of its environmental indifference. The ministry’s study discovered that in 2010, the cost of pollution was almost 1.5 trillion Yuan, or $250 billion, or 3.5% of 2010′s GDP; in 2004, the cost was 511.8 billion Yuan, 3.1% of China’s GDP that year.
Climate change is a global issue. China is now the second-largest global economy and the largest emitter of GHG. Fortunately, China is slowing down, and steadily examining and balancing conflicting goals and resultant policies between short-term economic pressures and long-term environmental considerations.
With global economic slowdown, it will be politically and economically difficult, if not impossible, for developed countries to act unilaterally, unless developing countries — such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and newly added South Africa (BRICS) — do their part.
An education program must be initiated to “convert” a large population of “climate change deniers” in many countries, including the US.
However, any discussion on climate change and the global aluminum industry must focus on China.
Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan.
Dr. Das is a prolific writer and a well-recognized and respected expert and consultant to the global aluminum industry specializing in the areas of industry trends, technology, recycling, manufacturing, carbon management and new product & process developments.