Global warming: China talks the talk but will it walk the walk?
As noted below China this year to date has recently approved the construction of 155 new coal powered plants. It is true that China leads in many areas, e.g. solar hot water heating, but it has not yet begun to reduce net emissions. China's urgent need is to reduce REAL pollution, particulate pollution, and they will no doubt get somewhere with that. And it is cleaning up coal-fired power station emissions that is needed for that. But cleaning up particulate pollution should also reduce CO2 emissions as a byproduct of that. So they are getting some propaganda leverage out of that. The Warmists desperately want to believe that China is on their side but China is only on China's side
Back in 2009, China was a reluctant partner during major climate negotiations in Copenhagen that eventually collapsed amid recriminations between rich and poor nations. This time around the world’s biggest polluter is regarded as a driving force behind what could be a comprehensive deal at a world climate summit in Paris.
The change in stance has a lot to do with the record levels of foul air that often hang over China’s major industrialized urban centers, undermining public health. The resulting backlash over the smog has made President Xi Jinping’s government far more serious about combating climate change and investing in cleaner forms of energy.
China’s resolve will be tested along with other countries as world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and China’s Xi, gather in the French capital on Monday. The talks organized by the United Nations are scheduled to run for two weeks and include the biggest ever gathering of leaders on a single day.
“Nowhere has our coordination been more necessary or more fruitful” than on climate, Obama told reporters as he met Xi Monday morning in Paris. “As the two largest economies in the world and the two largest carbon emitters, we have both determined it is our responsibility to take action.”
The road to Paris for China and others has been in the works for some time. In March 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang declared war on pollution, telling the National People’s Congress that his government would accelerate efforts to tackle environmental problems.
At the same time, China has embarked on a makeover designed to shift its $10 trillion-plus economy away from reliance on big, energy-consuming heavy industries and toward services and consumer spending. For climate deal warriors, both moves have added up to a big and welcome policy shift.
“The fact that you’ve got some countries like China and Russia actively talking about their role is a complete change, so we’ve made tremendous progress,” U.K. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd said in an Oct. 15 interview in London.
The nascent alliance between the world’s two biggest polluters stands in stark contrast to Copenhagen in 2009 where China’s premier at the time, Wen Jiabao, missed a scheduled meeting with Barack Obama, and the U.S. president later forced himself into a meeting of the Chinese with Brazil, South Africa and India in order to get face time with the leaders he felt necessary to forge a lasting deal.
China’s Xi, building on the November 2014 accord with Obama, promised in September that China will start a national pollution-trading system to cut global-warming emissions in 2017. China will also partner with the U.S. on other ways to cut emissions, has pledged $3.1 billion to help developing countries combat climate change and also promised to cut carbon dioxide emitted per dollar of economic output by 60 percent to 65 percent from 2005 levels.
“The fact that the United States and China at the presidential level joined arms and stepped forward in November of last year in the ramp up to 2015 and put forward strong targets together, these two historic antagonists at the presidential level, was a big shot in the arm to the negotiations,” Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy on climate change, told reporters Oct. 23 during a conference call.
China’s pollution scourge is a public health crisis. Air pollution is killing 4,000 people a day in the country, according to a recent study by Berkeley Earth, an independent research group funded largely by educational grants. The researchers cited coal burning used to produce electricity and heat homes and offices as the likely principal cause.
Much of the drive to do something about emissions in China is borne by the need for action on pollution.
China was the biggest renewables market in the world with 433 gigawatts of generating capacity at the end of 2014, more than double the second place U.S., according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.
The Asian nation added more than four times as much clean energy capacity as the U.S. in 2014. Moreover, solar installations have gone from about 300 megawatts in 2009 at the time of Copenhagen to almost 33 gigawatts at the end of 2014 -- a 110-fold increase. China accounts for almost one of every three wind turbines in the world at the moment.
“Peak demand for coal will happen at some point for China in the future and if anything this year has brought a number of surprises and indicators, whether it’s economic growth or electricity demand consumption,” said Justin Wu, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Hong Kong. “Everything is pointing to the (coal) peaking happening earlier or sooner than even previous estimates.”
China remains a voracious consumer of coal regardless of the boom in clean energy. The most polluting fossil fuel still accounts for more than 60 percent of the nation’s total power installations. Some 155 coal-fired power plants, or four per week, have received environmental permits in the first nine months of this year, according to Greenpeace East Asia.
As long as coal is seen as the cheapest form of energy, the fossil fuel may still remain an attractive option for regional governments eager to promote economic development.