While Trump dismisses climate change, China takes charge

By Haifa Said
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 3, 2018
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Workers check equipment at a wind farm in Shanxi Province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Once again, China has proven that it is on a fast and effective track in contributing to the safety of the globe, this time by launching the world's largest carbon-trading market aimed at creating a cleaner environment.

This much-awaited step stands in stark contrast to a retrograde move taken by the U.S. in removing climate change from the list of threats to the country in the new "America First" -branded National Security Strategy under the administration of Donald Trump, marking a shift in international leadership in the climate change fight.

Environmental officials in the U.S. in particular and the West in general have long portrayed China as a spoiler in the international negotiations on global warming. In December 2009, Beijing was accused of foiling the Copenhagen climate change talks, which, from China's point of view, favored the interests of developed countries at the expense of developing nations.

But the disagreement between China and the U.S. has its roots even earlier, when the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 made climate work mandatory for rich countries but only advisory for emerging economies, including China.

The sticking point has been that neither side is willing to play a significant role unless the other is willing to do as much, if not more, for fear of harm to their industrial growth, which has cast a shadow on the international efforts targeting climate change overall.

The bickering between the two parties was accompanied by propaganda denying the human causes of global warming. Trump's ignorance of the climate change threat and his earlier decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Accord stem from this denial, which was intended to keep the American manufacturing industry intact.

Unlike the U.S., China is refusing to bury its head in the sand, and it dismisses Trump's claim issued on Twitter that climate change is "an expensive hoax" invented by Beijing to harm American industry.

In fact, China has committed to meet its climate obligations as well as to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, designed to fulfill the common ambition of keeping the global average temperature rise less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

China, the world's largest emitter, has publicly embarked on formulating a climate policy with a main objective of reducing carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020. In the lead-up to the 2015 Paris Conference, the country announced that its emissions will peak by 2030 by ensuring that at least 20 percent of its portfolio of energy will come from non-fossil fuel sources.

China's green strategy, which started to take shape in its 12th Five-Year Plan of 2011, suggested making low-carbon industries the main engine of the economy, aiming to spend $761 billion by 2020 to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources. In 2014, China issued an energy strategy that called for reducing coal consumption by 2020 and suspending work at coalmines.

China has also become a leading force in renewable energy investment. According to statistics from 2016, investment increased from $39 billion to $111 billion in just five years, while solar power capacity grew 168 times and wind power quadrupled. China also announced in September 2016 that it would build at least 60 new nuclear power plants within a decade.

Since its initiation in 2013, the country's carbon trading pilot program has seen transactions valued at 4.6 billion yuan ($696.8 million), with emissions of over 200 million metric tons. The launch of the new nationwide program would initially include 1,700 energy-generating companies with combined annual emissions of over 3 billion tons.

This determination to fulfill its climate commitments proves China's ability to fill the political vacuum left by the declining U.S. role and to stand at the forefront of international efforts to reduce global warming.

Haifa Said is chief editor of the English Department at the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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