pollution.jpgChina argues that western nations must share some of the blame for China's growing carbon footprint and so they should also share in the solution. It is startlingly progressive proposal for a nation that is frequently accused of having its head in the sand when it comes to global warning.

But I suspect China was simply floating a trial balloon as it knows that the grave economic ills currently facing many of China's export markets in the west mean that the proposal is politically a non-starter, unfortunately.

A leading Chinese official met with members of the Obama administration on Monday to argue that countries importing goods from China should be responsible for cutting the greenhouse gases generated by their production.

Li Gao, China's chief climate negotiator, said China wants to put responsibility for dealing with these emissions on more developed countries as part of any new international agreement to curb emissions blamed for global warming.

China has surpassed the US as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases and round 15-25% of China's emissions come as a result of manufacturing goods for export, Gao said.

EngagingChina sees similarities between this line of argument and the litany of Chinese product recall stories that regularly pop up in the western media. It is deplorable that unscrupulous manufacturers in China adulterate baby milk or forge auto parts. But it is also disingenuous for buyers in the west to pin the blame entirely on China.

You get what you pay for, and if the west really wants China to invest in QA and perform rigorous safety checks then buyers in the west must police Chinese suppliers better and accept that better quality will add to the price of Chinese-sourced goods

In similar vein, companies in the west are falling over themselves to boost and boast their green credentials — turning off computers, turning down heating, encouraging car pools, etc. But they conveniently overlook the environmental footprints of their low-cost suppliers in China and the hundreds of tons of CO2 spent shipping T-shirts or laptops halfway around the world.

The Chinese proposal is an imaginative one but its a tough sell particularly a time when many western competitors, with presumably higher environmental standards to their Chinese rivals, are having to lay off workers.

Nevertheless, there is nothing to stop the more progressive western businesses embracing the spirit of the Chinese proposal by offsetting the carbon footprint of their Chinese suppliers. That gives them something to boast about in the annual report and also allows the growing number of green consumers to sleep more soundly at night.

More on China's ballooning carbon footprint in these stories.

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