China as Local weather Change Saviour: The Triumph of Hope Over Expertise?

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China as Climate Change Saviour: The Triumph of Hope Over Experience?

Reposted by Forbes.

By Tilak Doshi

President Xi Jinping recently told the United Nations General Assembly that China is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060, in addition to its previous goal of meeting the peak carbon emissions promised for the 2015 Paris Agreement by 2030. The world press greeted this announcement with enthusiasm. The headlines read "an unexpectedly blatant promise to accelerate global action against the climate crisis", "a major step in the fight against climate change", "a bold effort to lead the world into a deep slump." Carbon future ”and so on. The Guardian raved that China "will give new impetus to efforts by the United Nations to address the" climate crisis "."

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Gullible Western environmentalists and government officials expect China to play a leading role in “fighting” climate change, especially since President Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement. However, China's plans to reduce reliance on coal conflict with data showing that consumption and production are trending down rather than down.

China's annual carbon dioxide emissions nearly tripled between 2000 and 2019 and now account for almost 30% of total global emissions, making the country by far the largest emitter. The US, the second largest emitter, is responsible for 14.5% of global emissions, while India, the third largest, accounts for 7.3%.

After a certain drop in coal demand for a few years, demand increased 3.3% from 2016 to 2019, and its demand rose in June of this year to near its peak in 2013. In the first half of 2020, China approved a value of 23 gigawatts new Coal power projects, more than in the last two years combined; In 2018 and 2019, China put more coal-fired power into operation than the rest of the world combined.

As the single largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions, China is expected to face strong international pressure to reduce them. But the country has a skilled hand in international diplomacy. Since the first negotiations in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994, the country has positioned itself together with other large developing countries such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia as defenders of the interests of the “Third World”.

The Kyoto Protocol, which came into force in 2005, introduced a two-pronged system in which the developed "Annex 1" countries passed binding emissions commitments, while the developing "non-Annex 1" countries not only had no such obligations, but expected to do so Should be recipients of "Climate Finance Assistance" from the Appendix 1 Group to Assistance in Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change. This effectively turned climate policy goals into an exercise for massive redistribution of international income. The German economist and UN climate politician Ottmar Edenhofer said in 2010: “Climate policy has almost nothing to do with environmental protection. The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economic summit at which the distribution of the world's resources will be negotiated. "

It is no surprise that the Senate Republicans would never have approved such an outcome early on, which explains President Obama's 2015 backdoor adoption of the Paris Agreement, defining US participation in the Paris Agreement as an "executive agreement." . and not an international treaty. Under this non-treaty, developed countries were expected to sign $ 100 billion in annual transfers under the "climate finance section" of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement was hailed as President Obama's "breakthrough" with China, so that China too would participate in global efforts to reduce emissions. The president of the US-based Defense Council on Natural Resources said the two countries are "on an unstoppable path to protect us from climate change, the central environmental challenge of our time."

Perhaps the most ironic thing about the solemn announcements of the Paris Agreement to “save the planet” is the fact that the emission reduction commitments of developing countries like China and India mean little in practice. Green political pledges for future implementation are a free way to gain diplomatic benefit at zero cost. As part of the non-binding requirements of the Paris Agreement, China promised to "reach peak emissions by 2030" but made no commitment as to the size of that ceiling or the subsequent rate of emissions reductions.

Amid the fanfare over China's recent pledge to be carbon neutral by 2060, research showing that under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, China's emissions would peak by 2030 anyway, is barely noticeable. A survey of around 260 participants reported by Bloomberg found that 90% of respondents said China's carbon emissions are expected to peak by 2030. Analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that exposure to emissions intensity is actually less ambitious than BAU. A similar conclusion was found for India.

However, it would be wrong to understand this state of affairs primarily as one of the countries like China and India that are “spoilers” in the global crusade against climate change. Governments of developing countries such as China and India are well aware of the profound contradiction at the heart of energy planning between long-term promises for green energy and the immediate goals of economic growth and budget priorities. These countries will not sacrifice national economic growth and the aspirations of their citizens for the supposed global good.

Staying in power is a top priority for the Chinese Communist Party. Regime stability and political legitimacy are ultimately linked to sustained economic growth and an improvement in the standard of living of the common people. Economic growth, in turn, depends on continued access to fossil fuels. China's planners are aware that no country on earth has developed without the use of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution. The story of successful economic development has essentially consisted of climbing the “energy ladder”, moving from the centuries-old use of fodder wood, crop residues and cow dung to modern fuels such as propane, high quality gasoline and diesel, and a reliable electricity network. The western environmental movement, however, has focused on forcing poorer countries to follow a quixotic decarbonization policy based on unreliable intermittent renewable energy technologies with absurd analogies of "skipping".

So it's no wonder that Asian planners sometimes reacted strongly. It wasn't too long ago that Arvind Subramaniam – previously chief economic advisor to the Indian government – declared that India could not allow the West's "carbon imperialism" to block rational planning for the enormous energy infrastructure required for modern agriculture, industrialization, Urbanization and mobility is required. At the 2011 climate conference in Durban, China's negotiator Xie Zhenhua made the point even clearer and asked Western governments, "What qualifies you to tell us what to do?" The Chinese government, as well as its counterparts in India and other developing countries, know that giving up national economic growth for a supposed global good is not a sustainable political strategy.

While China is playing a good game on climate change, it will certainly try to get rich before it gets old.

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