China emits more carbon dioxide in four days than the Netherlands emits in an entire year, but that’s not the whole story

China emits more carbon dioxide in four days than the Netherlands emits in an entire year, but that's not the whole story

It may seem too crazy to be true, but it’s true: China emits more carbon dioxide in four days than the Netherlands emits in an entire year. But China’s per capita emissions are much lower than in the Netherlands. Experts explain how it works.

Yesterday, FVD MP Frik Janssen said during public financial considerations that China emits more carbon dioxide in three days than the Netherlands does in one year, but this turned out to be not entirely true. It’s actually 4 days.

1.4 billion Chinese

Of course, the reason why China can emit so much more than the Netherlands is simple in the first place: more people live in the country. “The main reason is that 1.4 billion people live in China and about 17.5 million people in the Netherlands,” says climate researcher Detlev van Vuuren from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

That’s why experts in the Netherlands believe that the discussion about carbon dioxide emissions should not be about the total emissions that countries emit, but about the volume of emissions per capita.

More emissions per person

Marjane Minnesma, director of the climate organization Urgenda, also believes it is misleading to make this kind of statement in politics. “If you look at emissions per person, China emits 7.44 tons of carbon dioxide per person, and we emit 9.54 tons,” says Minnesma. “So, we emit more per person than China.”

Minnisma also draws a comparison with India: “The Netherlands produces five times more emissions per person.” While India is – since the beginning of this year – the most populous country in the world, with a population of more than 1.4 billion people.

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An example for other countries

Therefore, the Chinese expert at The Hague Center for Strategic Studies (HCSS), Arde Boer, believes that we in the Netherlands must work to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per person. Also as an example for countries like China and India.

“Because of course they say: ‘You can point to us, but we still emit less per person than you do. So first show yourself that you are ready to go down, and then we will go down too.”

“Netherlands La Calimero”

Director Urgenda Minnesma emphasizes that our country is still in the “leading group” when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, the Netherlands is among the 20% of countries with the highest emissions in absolute terms, she says. And not just in terms of emissions per person.

“So we are not calimeros with a small amount of emissions,” she continues. “80 percent of all countries emit less in absolute terms. So if we say we are small countries and therefore we don’t have to do anything about emissions, then 80 percent of the world can lie flat on its back.”

Just emit more

Boyer knows that China has no plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at the moment. The expert says that new coal-fired power plants are opened every week, and this, of course, does not help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. “China’s energy needs have almost doubled since 2010,” she explains.

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She explains that Beijing’s policy is that the country can grow in carbon dioxide emissions until 2030. This is because the government believes that China is still developing and needs to catch up with other countries.

CO2 neutral by 2060?

At the same time, China is “working very hard to develop sustainable energy,” Power added. “Wind, solar, nuclear, hydroelectric,” she says. “But there is enormous energy hunger. That can only really be met with a very large amount of coal.”

According to her, the official policy of the Chinese government is not to become a carbon dioxide neutral country until 2060. “This means that they have to work hard to reduce carbon dioxide emissions between 2030 and 2060.”

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