Photo by Sean Gladwell
Artillery Row

Green gift for China

Failing climate policies create international discord that benefits no one but China

It is obvious that dramatic emissions reductions pledges in the West are insignificant without corresponding emissions cuts in the developing world. However, neither China, India nor Russia, which together account for nearly 40 per cent of world emissions, have made significant commitments.

China has declared that its emissions will continue to rise until 2030, with its incremental emissions in the period 2020 to 2025 exceeding the total emissions of Japan. India’s emissions will also rise beyond 2030. In this context, it is extremely unlikely that we will realise the 45 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2030 needed to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C.

This clear failure in climate diplomacy can be attributed to Western neglect of developing countries’ energy requirements in the Asian region, which are the epicentre of incremental energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions.

Chinese companies hold 70 per cent of the global solar market

There is no excuse for this neglect. Polling by the United Nations shows that while citizens in the developed world put a high priority on tackling climate change, those in the developing world place Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as health and wellbeing, decent work and economic growth, and quality education in the top three ranks, with climate occupying much lower place (fifteenth in China, ninth in Indonesia). Even in the developed world, Willingness to Pay is severely limited, and far lower than the expenditures required to deliver the 1.5°C target.

These facts were to some degree recognised by the Paris Agreement, which was far from perfect but was pragmatic in allowing some degree of leeway in national climate policies. This approach is now threatened by the inflexible fundamentalism of the emerging Net Zero target agenda, which puts the developed and developing worlds on a collision course.

The failing climate policies are on track to create intense international discord that benefits no one except China, which is fully aware of the situation and planning accordingly. By setting a carbon neutrality target for a date ten years later than that of other developed countries, the Chinese Communist Party has secured room for manoeuvre. As soon as the failure of the Net Zero policies becomes evident, Beijing will criticise the West and prevaricate over its own decarbonisation target.

Furthermore, Chinese companies are the principal beneficiaries of the fundamentalist green agenda in the developed world, holding 70 per cent of the global solar market, and providing seven out of ten of the largest wind turbine manufacturers.

Even more significantly, the trend towards Electric Vehicles (EVs) is a particularly advantageous development for China, sweeping away the decades of accumulated technological advantage in Internal Combustion Engines of its major international competitors, providing China with a short-cut to automobile power status.

Empty green preaching helps China expand its influence

Those comforting themselves with the thought that the shift towards renewables, battery storage and EVs will at least reduce dependence on Middle Eastern oil should bear in mind that the Electric Vehicle policy will cause a different and still more concentrated kind of risk, namely growing dependence on China for fundamental strategic minerals and the high value components manufactured from them.

At the same time, low carbon policies in the West will reduce the cost of Chinese fossil fuel imports while increasing energy costs in the West itself, delivering competitive advantage to Chinese manufacturers. Carbon Border Adjustment Measures will be powerless to prevent this free riding.

Perhaps worst of all, the West’s empty green preaching gives China the opportunity to expand its influence by giving the practical assistance that the developing world actually requires. It would be extremely naïve to take at face value Xi Jinping’s recent promise to cease supporting overseas coal plant construction, the details of which are far from clear. 

The Net Zero climate policies are creating a divided and acrimonious international environment that will permit China to greatly enhance its global economic presence and political influence, while the developed, democratic world becomes weaker in every way. Is that the world we want?

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