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

Reposted from Forbes.

By Tilak Doshi

President Xi Jinping recently told the UN General Assembly that China aims for carbon neutrality by 2060, in addition to its previous target to hit peak carbon emissions by 2030 which it promised for the 2015 Paris Agreement. The global press greeted this announcement with enthusiasm, with headlines exclaiming “an unexpectedly forthright pledge to galvanize global action against the climate crisis”, “a significant step in the fight against climate change”, “an audacious bid to lead the world into a low carbon future”, and so on. The Guardian gushed that China “will give fresh impetus to UN efforts to galvanize action on the ‘climate crisis’”.

Credulous Western environmentalists and government officials expect China to play a lead role in “combating” climate change, especially since President Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement. China’s trumpeted plans to reduce reliance on coal, however, conflict with data showing consumption and production trending up not down.

China’s annual carbon dioxide emissions nearly tripled between 2000 and 2019, and now account for just under 30% of total global emissions which makes the country the largest emitter by far. The US, the second largest emitter, accounts for 14.5% of global emissions while India, the third largest, contributes 7.3%.

After some reduction in coal demand for a few years, demand increased from 2016 to 2019 by 3.3%, and its demand climbed in June this year to near its peak levels in 2013. In the first half of 2020 China approved 23 gigawatts-worth of new coal power projects, more than the previous two years combined; in 2018 and in 2019, China commissioned more coal power than the rest of the world combined.

As the single largest contributor of carbon dioxide emissions, China would be expected to be under intense international pressure to reduce them. But the country has a deft hand at international diplomacy. From the earliest negotiations in the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) beginning in 1994, the country has positioned itself as the defender of “Third World” interests, along with other large developing countries such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia.

The Kyoto Protocol, brought into force in 2005, established a two track system whereby the developed “Annex 1” countries adopted binding emission commitments while the developing “non-Annex 1” countries not only had no such commitments but were expected to be recipients of “climate finance” aid from the Annex 1 group for assistance in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Thereby, climate policy goals effectively got converted into an exercise in massive international income re-distribution. As German economist and UN climate policy official Ottmar Edenhofer said in 2010, “Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection. The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated”

It is no surprise that the Republicans in the US Senate would never have approved of such an outcome early on, which explains President Obama’s adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 through the backdoor of defining US participation in the Paris Agreement as an “executive agreement” and not an international treaty. As part of this non-treaty, the developed countries were expected to sign on to annual transfers of $US100 billion as part of the “climate finance” leg of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement was hailed as President Obama’s “breakthrough” understanding with China that the latter too would join in the global effort to cut emissions. The President of US-based Natural Resources Defense Council claimed that the two countries are “on an unstoppable path to protect us from climate change, the central environmental challenge of our time”.

Perhaps most ironic in the celebratory announcements of the Paris Agreement to “save the planet” is the fact that the emission-curtailing commitments of the developing countries such as China and India mean little in practice. Green policy promises for future implementation are a costless way to extract diplomatic benefits at zero cost. As part of the Paris Agreement’s non-binding requirements, China promised to reaching peak emissions “around 2030” but offered no commitment regarding the level of that peak or the subsequent rate of emission decline.

Hardly noticed amidst the fanfare over China’s latest pledge to be carbon-neutral by 2060 is the body of research that show China’s emissions would peak anyway by 2030 under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario. A survey of about 260 participants reported by Bloomberg resulted in 90% of the respondents saying that China’s carbon emissions will probably peak on or before 2030. An analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance concluded that the commitment with respect to emissions intensity is actually less ambitious than BAU. A similar conclusion was found for India.

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

For the Chinese Communist Party, staying in power is its highest priority. Regime stability and political legitimacy is ultimately linked to continued economic growth and improvements in living standards of ordinary people. Economic growth in turn depends on continued access to fossil fuels. China’s planners are well aware that no country on earth since the Industrial Revolution has developed without the use of fossil fuels. The story of successful economic development has essentially been to climb the “energy ladder”, graduating from the age-old use of foraged wood, crop residues and cow-dung to modern fuels such as propane, high quality gasoline and diesel, and dependable grid electricity. But the Western environmental movement has focused on coercing poorer countries to adopt quixotic decarbonization policies based on unreliable intermittent renewable energy technologies with absurd analogies of “leapfrogging”.

It is no surprise then that Asian planners have sometimes reacted strongly. It was not too long ago that Arvind Subramaniam — previously chief economic advisor to the Indian government — stated that India cannot allow the West’s “carbon imperialism” to block rational planning for the vast energy infrastructure required for modern agriculture, industrialization, urbanization and mobility. At the Durban climate conference in 2011, China’s lead negotiator Xie Zhenhua put the point across even more forthrightly, asking Western governments “what qualifies you to lecture us on what to do”? The Chinese government, like its counterparts in India and other developing countries, knows that forsaking national economic growth for a supposed global good is not a sustainable political strategy.

While China talks a good game on climate change, it will most assuredly try to become rich before it gets old.

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Rafe Champion
October 18, 2020 2:28 am

This is like Lucy picking up the football as Charlie tries to make the first kick of the season. Every year she does it and every year she says this is the year that she won’t.

October 18, 2020 2:37 am

And why would anyone believe a word the Chinese say? Shall we start with reparations for Kung flu?

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
October 18, 2020 4:33 am

That’s from Sir Richard Dearlove’s Henry Jackson Society, Dearlove of MI6 fame, being the actual author of the Iraq dodgy dossier, Steele’s dodgy dossier, and the entire Wuhan feverish theories . The HJS even published their “bill”. They hosted Mike “Armageddon” Pompeo in London recently, and whatever tea he betook, there followed 3 rampaging anti China speeches per day.
HJS sure looks like a Mad Hatter’s Party!

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
October 18, 2020 12:04 pm

Would anyone believe a word the Guardian writes about climate ??

… its previous target to hit peak carbon emissions by 2030

The Chinese have said they will “aim to ” be more efficient about emitting ever more CO2 in that period. Vague, hand-waving claims that they would like to hit a peak in 2030 are just jerking off western politicians by pretending to play along with the climate scam rhetoric, in return for western leaders promising to destroy their own country’s economies and offer no resistance to chinese growth.

The bourgeois socialists at the Guardian are in awe of the level of control the CCP have over their population and try to hold them up as a shining example of the model they wish to install in the West on back of their fake “global heating emergency”.

george Tetley
October 18, 2020 2:52 am

Leave it to “Uncle Joe” he has been payed already Don’t beleave? Well ask Hunter how much he gave to daddy ,,,,God help America ,,Americans won’t !

Ron Long
October 18, 2020 3:20 am

The policy of China is clearly to say whatever that motivates the loonies against conservative leaders, then do whatever is they actually want to do. There is an impending conflict in their baseless South China Sea claims, their illegal fishing inside territorial waters of Ecuador, and their claims of facilitating the spread of Covid-19. When there are two interests and one follows rules and the other does whatever, guess who gets ahead the easiest? The election of Team Biden will speed up their advancement, not slow it down. I see Harrison Ford, in between episodes of crashing his airplane, has strongly endorsed urgent action against climate change. Insanity all around us, but Press On!

Reply to  Ron Long
October 18, 2020 4:13 am

Clint Eastwood was an exception to Hollywood Never-Trump Syndrome, until unfortunately he endorsed tiny Mike Bloomberg.

Still, the political virus has serious symptoms, bipartisan, infectious, not known to be curable, foreboding of creeping, and hearing reds under the bed.

Take some vitamin D, and I do not mean Democrat!

October 18, 2020 3:22 am

“China as Climate Change Saviour”

Translated as “Come into my parlor” said the spider to the fly.

Phil Salmon
October 18, 2020 3:39 am

Historically the treatment of Chinese in North America has been no better than that of africaribbeans. Now, while Black Lives Matter, it’s still open season on Chinese and Russians.

Reply to  Phil Salmon
October 18, 2020 9:43 am

Typical socialist. Can’t refute the charges so you start screaming racism.

Reply to  Phil Salmon
October 18, 2020 4:01 pm

The open season on Russians seems to be coming from Democratic politicians operating under the delusion that the Russkies are controlling our elections.

The Communists lost control of the Soviet Union in 1991. You don’t have to try to defend Russia anymore, Phil.

Reply to  Phil Salmon
October 18, 2020 6:22 pm

Phil, I would counter that there have been and still are many Chinese academics in the US. From students, to research assistants, to professors.

For a nation that still has “open season” on Chinese, we sure seem to be doing a poor job at it. That, or there is no “open season” on Chinese at all.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Phil Salmon
October 19, 2020 12:16 am

So… People of Chinese ethnic background were – apparently – mistreated somewhere in North America sometime in the historical record, therefore China – the Nation State – shouldn’t be questioned?

Well… that sounds completely rational.

Bernard Anderson
October 18, 2020 3:43 am

China’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions after 2030 was on “carbon/GDP intensity” basis which would allow them to continue increasing CO2 emissions as long as their GDP was increasing. Irrespective of that they will keep doing whatever they want to anyway.

October 18, 2020 5:21 am

40 years more CO2 from China


Plant life will be very happy.

Plants LUV CO2

Bruce Cobb
October 18, 2020 5:27 am

For China, “Climate Change” truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
October 18, 2020 5:51 am

And if there is a bit more warming, it will open up huge tracts of currently cold unusable land for them

They have a win-win situation.

No wonder they aren’t concerned about CO2 emissions. 🙂

Serge Wright
October 18, 2020 6:00 am

If you examine the emissions of the developed world, it works out at to be around 30GT of CO2 each year for 1B people. This relationship can be assumed as a good guide as to where a country will be when it has achieved full economic development, after which time emissions will remain flat, which is what we see from the collective developed world since 1980. China currently sits at 30GT for 1.4B people and therefore you would expect them to plateau at between 35-40 GT of emissions once they reach full development and at their current rate of development that should happen by around 2030.

Therefore, China has effectively made a promise to stop emitting further when they would have stopped emitting more anyway. The promise is just a huge pile of manure being fed to brain dead loony lefties that have a negative IQ. But what this commitment really means is that China doesn’t even consider RE as a part of any viable energy solution, else it would already be moving in this direction.

The world is being conned and only Trump is smart enough to see the con and take action.

October 18, 2020 7:33 am

While China talks a good game on climate change, it will most assuredly try to become rich before it gets old.

Experts have a lousy record of predicting future events. A dart-throwing chimp does better.

Currently, China is on a course of self-sufficiency. That means it doesn’t want to be subjected to any foreign trade pressure. link On the other hand, China is delighted to be able to turn the thumb screws on everyone else. In terms of population, China is a large enough market for it to be self-sufficient.

The vast majority of Chinese live in poverty. link On the other hand, there are more wealthy Chinese than there are people in Britain. The Chinese middle class outnumbers the total population of the United States.

As far as I can tell, there is plenty of room for the Chinese economy to grow. I can’t tell what will happen but the possibilities are numerous, anywhere between complete collapse and unimaginable growth.

Mark A Luhman
Reply to  commieBob
October 18, 2020 9:44 am

They don’t have their own energy supplies and cannot feed themselves, that also true for most raw materials. How on God green earth do you think they are going to get those resources. They are well aware of the problem, so the CCP are building a military to just simply take them, how do you think that going to work out.

Reply to  Mark A Luhman
October 18, 2020 11:18 am

I think that depends on who wins the election. President Trump is willing to stand up to China. link The Democrats are more likely to give away the farm.

China is not devoid of resources. link It is also becoming a colonial power in Africa.

Folks in Taiwan and Hong Kong are worried but they don’t have much in the way of resources. Other than the South China Sea, what do you think China can invade to steal resources?

October 18, 2020 7:58 am

Been a while since I read up on China’s plan but wasn’t the plan to go full coal build up until 2030 then switch to nuclear? That easily could put full nuclear at 2060 with them not having to deal with environmental lawsuits holding up construction.

In other words their announcement of being carbon neutral is no more than China looking for kudos now on what they’ve been planning to do for years.

October 18, 2020 8:36 am

When will we/world stop letting China get away with the “developing country” excuse? How much more developing do they need beyond the ability to send people into space or become the second largest economy? All countries are continuing to develop or they stagnate and die. Letting the UN decide what countries need economic help is like a heroin dealer deciding which of their ‘clients’ need more drugs and then giving them just enough to stay hooked.

Andy Pattullo
October 18, 2020 9:12 am

About 1.4 billion of our fellow earthlings live under the Chinese Communist government. That Government may be autocratic, undemocratic, corrupt and intentionally ignorant of what the West desires as essential human rights protections, but the one overriding truth is the CCP government will only survive if it continues the road to improvement of living standards, wealth, health and safety of those 1.4 billion people. This isn’t just an obvious fact but a fortunate force for change that has brought a large majority of those 1.4 billion out of poverty. If the West really cares about the development of democracy, human rights, environmental protection and global security, they will chuck their climate change nonsense and the Paris accord, and sign on to rational development policies that bring China and other nations closer to a modern energy driven economy. Even the long-standing bogeyman of population growth is predicted to peak and then decline about mid century and development is the primary reason.

That will only happen faster if we work collectively to support modern development. Some of the unforeseen benefits include a gradual reduction in the environmental footprint on the natural lands and oceans as urbanization increases and rural living decreases, along with the expansion of industrial food production systems over traditional agrarian and fishing systems. If people are concerned about our “consumerist” lifestyle and the real or imagined impacts on the planet they should consider how urbanization has gradually reduced the amount resource and energy inputs needed to attain an increase in quality of life. The way forward is not backward!

Walter Sobchak
October 18, 2020 9:14 am

The Chinese regime is ROTFLTAO at western warmmunists. The term: “Baizuo” (pinyin: báizu) literally White Left was coined to explain them.

October 18, 2020 9:17 am

Three or four decades out, they plan on being nuclear…in their politics, no issues with approvals, cheap construction labour, and government in control of the means of production, big brotherish is very much to their liking.

Abolition Man
Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 18, 2020 9:59 am

While the ChiComs are building a modern, totalitarian state with mind and thought control via social media; here in the US we are arguing about who gets to use which restroom and allowing thousands of our children to be scarred and mutilated due to being confused during puberty!

Abolition Man
October 18, 2020 9:51 am

Western environmentalists and politicians are, to a large extent, infected with what Professor Gad Saad calls thought pathogens. These infectious ideas, like critical race theory and radical feminism, are mostly derived from the Progressive (cultural Marxist) movement and prevent most rational thought, leaving the victim largely controlled by emotion alone. The ChiComs are happy to take advantage of this weakening of the Western mind; in fact they seem to help finance and promulgate it for their own benefit.
It would appear that the DemoKKKrat party has been largely bought off by the ChiComs; who they see as a closer ally to their goals than the American public! Sleepy Joe and Hunter “Crack” Biden have been totally compromised by the ChiComs; making Joe a true “Manchurian Candidate!” Without a Trump victory in two weeks the US will be largely under the control of Chinese government and their domestic quislings, leading to an accelerating decline of America into Third World status from which there would be little chance of recovery any time in the near future!

Reply to  Abolition Man
October 18, 2020 6:31 pm

Hitler made a similar move when, in the 1930s, he took on the entire French army in the Rhineland. His tactic? Send 3,500 troops in on the risk that the French would send in Death Itself. The French– too obsessed with a policy of appeasement, blame-shifting to the British, complaining about a “poor economy”, and (worst of all) too obsessed with it’s concerns about modernity– did nothing. There is an ongoing debate that had the French bit the bullet and sent 5,000 men into the Rhineland (which they were legally able to do), WW2 could have been avoided.

Hitler counted on the talking heads in French society to confuse and mislead enough of the public and political sphere to avoid a counterattack. It worked.

I foresee that same tactic being used by the next malignant world power– China or otherwise– against Europe, the US, and Canada.

October 18, 2020 10:00 am

China’s “climate change” would be termed “Climate Change Dominance” and force subjugation of all other countries to their benefit. The CCP has just one goal in mind and it is completely one-sided!

Bill Everett
October 18, 2020 10:22 am

When are the common sense climate experts going to begin a continuing attack on the notion that the tiny level of CO2 in the atmosphere is a cause of global warming and climate change? If CO2 were such a potent gas that even tiny amounts of it cause climate change on a global level then wouldn’t it be plausible to believe that a CO2 fire extinguisher containing less than one percent of CO2 could extinguish a kitchen fire?

Graeme M
Reply to  Bill Everett
October 18, 2020 1:48 pm

What an odd comment. What exactly do you think makes the air warm?

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  Graeme M
October 19, 2020 6:48 am

What exactly do you think makes the air warm?

The Sun. CO2 only contributes 3-4% of the ‘greenhouse’ warming. H2O vapor contributes 95%. Guy Callendar’s misconception that CO2 is a major driver of the atmosphere’s warming had missed scientists for 90 years. Time for a new paradigm

Pat Frank
October 18, 2020 10:47 am

Credulous Western environmentalists and government officials…

They’re not credulous. They’re cynical and dishonest, and some are likely on the take. For example.

Reply to  Pat Frank
October 18, 2020 1:53 pm

That’s an excellent link Pat. I know that Americans are finding it difficult to get information on the Hunter Biden emails, “The Bidengate emails”. More information to come, sounds intriguing.

Looks like the pyramid scheme is finally going to come crashing down, this one lasted a long time. I feel for those people whose superannuation companies have invested heavily in renewables.

Joel O'Bryan
October 18, 2020 11:17 am

China of course is playing the long game out to century for geopolitical dominance. Something the West seems incapable of.

The real prize for China by 2100 is Australia and its vast uranium, iron ore, and coking coal reserves. Throw in the currently unrealized natural gas potential that remains mostly unexplored in the Northern territory, and Australia represents a bounty for China and its 1.5 Billion citizens versus Australias 45 million citizens. Based on how it treats ethnic minorities in Tibet and the western China, I doubt China would be so thoughtful to Aboriginal land concerns as the white-guilt afflicted Aussie progressives seem to be today, or for that matter the mostly Euro-centric Australians who would be fodder for Chinese re-education centers in the Outback if they resist invasion and land seizure.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 18, 2020 1:57 pm

“Australias 45 million citizens.”

It’s only 25 million Joel. We’re screwed.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Megs
October 18, 2020 2:44 pm

Thanks for the correction. Not sure why I thought 45m for Oz.

October 19, 2020 5:42 am

“the country has positioned itself as the defender of “Third World” interests”

PR China in the WTO in 2020 is still counted as a “developing nation” on par with say central Africa., with all impoet and export perks. The US swamp till has date has wallowed this obvious nonsense as this twist was making good money for them. Can Trump do it next year?

Al Miller
October 19, 2020 10:02 am

Gosh, I forgot to believe what Beijing is saying….Obviously I’ve erred (sarc)

Bill Everett
October 19, 2020 12:12 pm

The level of human induced CO2 in the atmosphere is about 2/1000ths of one percent. That amount is not causing any noticeable warming.

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