Guest essay by Eric Worrall
No criticism for China? The Guardian is praising China for cleaning up pollution, and attacking the USA over President Trump leaving the Paris Agreement. But as is often the case with China, the rosy picture painted by The Guardian and their Chinese government approved “activist” source Ma Jun does not appear to match the reality of what is actually happening.
Ma Jun: China has started to ‘walk the walk’ on climate crisis
US dropped the environmental ball under Trump, but Biden victory means the two countries can work together for a green recovery, says campaigner.
Fri 13 Nov 2020 16.00 AEDT
Ma Jun experienced a strange role reversal during Donald Trump’s presidency. Over more than two decades as one of China’s top environmental campaigners, American encouragement for Beijing to cut carbon emissions and temper the damage of rapid industrialisation had been part of the background music. Ma never imagined he would see the US renege on environmental commitments while China began to face up to the challenge.
“It’s been frustrating,” says Ma of the past four years as we speak on the phone, the bustle of Beijing audible in the background. “When it comes to environmental collaboration between the governments, it has been hard to do anything.”
“China has started changing its course. We have seen a lot more ‘walk the walk’ action. China has adopted some tough measures to try to deal with the pollution and environmental damage problem. And we have seen some progress made because of that,” Ma says.
Undoubtedly, many challenges remain. Environmental concerns surround the multibillion-dollar belt and road initiative – likely to guarantee China’s role at the heart of international trade for the next century. Parts of the illegal wildlife trade centre on China, driving species extinction across the planet. The current pandemic has only heightened the scrutiny.
…Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/13/ma-jun-china-is-beginning-to-walk-the-walk-on-climate-crisis-action-aoe
Apart from a minor slap for the Belt and Road initiative, the Guardian seems happy to equate pollution cleanup with climate action, at least when it comes to China.
But as is often the case with China, reality appears to be a little different to the spin.
… Whether or not there is high-level political support for the idea, important industry players are making a push for significantly increased limits on coal-fired power capacity.
The industry group for China’s power sector giants, China Electricity Council, has argued that coal-power capacity “will” reach 1,300GW by 2030, up from 1,050GW today. This target is based on its projections for annual electricity demand and the need for capacity to meet peak loads.
A cap of 1,300GW in 2030 would imply the addition of well over 300GW of new coal-fired capacity this decade, after accounting for the retirement of older plants.
China Electric Power Planning and Engineering Institute (EPPEI), the authoritative consultancy that has designed most of China’s coal power units and grid infrastructure, warned in June 2019 that 16 provinces in the country should increase new capacity and start working on a new batch of thermal power plants to avoid the possibility of shortages in the next two to three years.
“[China] should not close coal power plants at a large scale too soon or too fast and, by around 2030, we should maintain around 1,200GW of coal power to ensure the reliability of the power system, and key power generating regions should retain some backup and reserve capacity.”
However, the thinktank did not clearly define what “too soon” or “too fast” would mean in practice. …Read more: https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-will-china-build-hundreds-of-new-coal-plants-in-the-2020s
There is no contradiction between China burning more coal yet at the same time cleaning up their air pollution – China have become world leaders in constructing ultra-clean high efficiency coal plants. They have had a lot of recent practice building them.
There is also a lot of talk about how China’s renewable push will displace other forms of power generation, but we’ve all seen how that has worked out in the West – even Green Germany has started building coal plants again, and clearing ancient forests to mine the coal beneath the trees.
If Germany’s legendary engineers cannot make renewables work, if the desperate German quest for grid stability and energy security has driven the Germans to chop down a stand of trees which predates the dawn of civilisation, to dig out the coal beneath the trees, what chance does anyone else have of making renewables work?