US and EU hypocrisy on China’s efforts to cut greenhouse emissions

We are constantly hearing the same refrain from the US, the EU and from Stephen Harper: developed countries aren’t going to commit to anything like the Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gases until the big emitters from the emerging nations like China and India do the same.

Putting aside the historical unfairness of such a position – the West never counts the billions of tonnes of emissions they put out while industrializing their nations – a recent WTO challenge by the US and EU reeks of hypocrisy on the climate change front.

The two industrial super powers have filed a WTO complaint against China for that country’s efforts to reduce pollution.  The target of the complaint is China’s decision to place a duty on exported metals. Metal production in China is the single most polluting activity in the country and the duty is aimed at “curbing overproduction and emissions of carbon and sulfur gases from furnaces.”  It is part of China’s commitment to lower emissions per unit of production over the next ten years.

According to Bloomberg; “China’s Environmental Protection Ministry vowed in September to “strictly enforce” anti-pollution rules for smelters after thousands of children were poisoned by lead, zinc and manganese plants in Yunnan, Henan, Shaanxi and Hunan provinces.”

The US and EU would clearly rather see Chinese women and children die than have their own citizens succumb to the poisonous production of coke. Coke (used in the production of steel) is derived from coal and its production is one of the most deadly industrial processes. The process can emit more than 2,000 chemicals including the highly carcinogenic benzopyrene. China has ordered that no new coke production go forward for three years – meaning that US and EU steel producers will either have to slow steel production or produce their own coke. But their domestic regulations require a much cleaner and much more expensive process.

The US and EU – and their sidekick Stephen Harper – can’t have it both ways. They can’t depend on the cheap materials (rare earth mineral production is also being cut back) produced by polluting Chinese plants and use China’s huge greenhouse gas emissions as an excuse to sabotage Kyoto.

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