China's Climate Change Paradox

President Xi Jinping wants China to replace the U.S. as the world's leader in fighting climate change, yet emissions from China are projected to increase at a higher rate than any other major emitter, according to the Global Carbon Project.
November 16, 2017, 12pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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Last month, "President Xi Jinping of China promised that his country would take a “driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change,” reports Somini Sengupta on Nov 14 for The New York Times.

But can China really be in the “driving seat” when it is burning so much coal that its carbon emissions are forecast to rise this year?

The annual update by the Global Carbon Project, published Nov. 13, projects these changes in carbon dioxide emissions from the three largest emitting countries, the European Union, and the 'rest of the world':

  • China (10.5 Gt CO2;                +3.5%), 
  • India (2.5 Gt CO2;                   +2.0%),
  • United States (5.3 Gt CO2;        −0.4%), 
  • European Union (3.5 Gt CO2;     −0.2%), 
  • and the rest of the world (15.1 Gt CO2; +2.3%). ['ROW' in graph below]

Figure 3.

Source: IOP Science

Notwithstanding the 3.5 percent increase, "China...is well on track to meet the commitments it made under the Paris climate accord...," notes Sengupta. "The bar, it turns out, is pretty low."

The increase is blamed on coal, but experts and observers don't appear particularly worried because of energy policies the country, the world's largest coal consumer by far, has adopted and because it meets their air quality goals which are more pressing than climate change.

Li Shuo, of Greenpeace China, said the projected rise in emissions would not affect China’s overall trajectory toward slowing emissions at home and stepping up diplomatically.

“China can continue to play a leading role in the global climate debate, despite this short-term increase of emissions, which is temporary,” he said.

Another paradox: While China attempts to wean itself off coal by investing in renewable energy, "it is building coal plants abroad as part of an ambitious 'One Belt, One Road' initiative, designed to expand Chinese global influence," observes Sengupta.

As for alternatives to being the world leader in fighting climate change, Lisa Friedman reports on four, in addition to Xi Jinping, for The New York Times on Nov. 12.

Hat tip to Mark Boshnack.

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 in The New York Times.
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