China "Going Out"

China’s pledge to battle climate change

Does China have the ability to cut its carbon footprint as they have pledged, or is it a ploy to keep its trading partners happy? Probe International’s Patricia Adams joins Between the Lines for another look at China’s “hot green air” approach to the climate charade.

A radio interview broadcast by Between the Lines, ABC Radio, Australia, on May 13, 2021, with host Tom Switzer

The COP26 summit to be held in Glasgow this fall is billed as a crucial climate moment for the planet, says Tom Switzer in his introduction to today’s episode of Between the Lines. A moment when nations are supposed to agree to what had previously been postponed, and that is: the rule book for genuine climate litigation. Not just for nations like the US, UK and Australia, but also for non-OECD countries and especially China, the biggest emitter of all.

China’s role is intrigued by statistics that suggest Beijing’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions is, in fact, to increase them. Global Energy Monitor, a group that tracks fossil fuel trends, noted a significant spike in new coal-fired power stations in China last year, so big the openings offset all closures in 2020 for the rest of the world. Meanwhile, research firm Rhodium Group, found China’s carbon emissions in 2019 surpassed those of the US and the developed world combined and equalled that of 180 of the world’s lowest emitting nations.

Without a “binding, verifiable and enforceable mechanism” to ensure countries follow through on their pledges, China’s promises are just that. To complicate matters, says Switzer, the US and UK remain outspoken critics of China’s treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, democracy campaigners in Hong Kong and its aggressive posture towards India, Taiwan and the South and East China Seas.

How will Joe Biden and Boris Johnson persuade China to slash its carbon footprint?, asks Switzer.

“They can’t,” says Patricia Adams, the executive director of long-time, Toronto-based China monitor, Probe International.

She continues:

China’s Communist Party is laser focused on staying in power. To do that, they have to generate growth and they have to get levels of what I would call ‘real pollution’ down in China; that’s the nasty smog that we see pictures of with NOx and SOx and various pollutants that kill. CO2 is not one of them. They don’t care about C02. The public in China does not care about C02. It’s really the West that cares about it, and so the Chinese Communist Party is just playing us along, promising to do things, and has indeed promised to reduce emissions over the last several years, and then of course new statistics come out that show they are doing the opposite. People in the West wring their hands and say, “Oh dear. What are we going to do? China’s not abiding by its promises.”

I think that most of the world has come to realize in the last year or two that the Chinese Communist Party does not abide by its promises. It doesn’t care. It has its own agenda and it is not to reduce C02. I think it’s a real mistake for us to pretend that somehow if we negotiate with them we are going to get them to reduce C02 levels. What they really want is they want to protect their export markets in our countries and they want us to back off. They’re very clear about it. They want us to back off on our criticism of their human rights abuses in Xinjiang, in Hong Kong and their threats to Taiwan. They’re very, very explicit about it. … Just back off and maybe maybe maybe we’ll try to help you to save the planet.

Listen to the full broadcast here

Previous broadcasts on related issues

Hot green air

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