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April 24, 2017

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China taking the world lead on renewable energy

THE Trump Administration believes that the climate change mantra is a “hoax” peddled by some countries, including China. It also argues that it is a waste of money and threatens US jobs.

Non-adherence to the Paris Agreement on climate change may not affect the already-rich countries but China, as a developing country, has to undertake peaceful development and ensure a safe and prosperous future for Chinese citizens together with taking the strategic opportunity to develop alternative clean technologies.

President Xi Jinping said at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos that the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was hard won and therefore all signatories should stick by it.

A report released by the Ohio-based Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said China — given its domestic investment in renewable energy sectors — is now a world leader. The report also said China is going global: last year (2016) it invested US$32 billion in large overseas deals involving renewal energy.

China has chalked out a plan for a greenhouse gas “cap and trade” program, calling for the government to tax domestic companies that generate large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Domestic issues as well as a sense of global responsibility — such as acute pollution problems, particularly in the air and water, together with health hazards posed by increased carbon emissions, pollution and rising temperatures — are shaping China’s response to the global climate change challenge.

Additionally, scientific advances have afforded economic opportunities to curtail carbon emissions in lieu of clean and renewable technologies.

Solar and wind energy are now major policy priorities. Already, China has started limiting coal consumption in three largest cities — following adverse effects on the environment. Given these commitments, China may be able to control level of carbon emissions by 2025 — five years ahead of its stated goals of 2030.

US President Donald Trump labels climate change a hoax — ignoring the world population will hit 8.5 billion by 2030 from 7.5 billion now, increasing pressure on ever-more-stressed clean water, energy and air resources.

Timely choice

That China has taken the initiative on acquiring clean technologies is quite timely. Its new industries are manufacturing electric cars, batteries, nuclear power and wind, solar and geo-thermal technologies. As an illustration, nearly 200 million electric vehicles have been sold in China already and this trend may be catching up in other countries soon.

Already, coal is difficult to exploit as fracking technology is expensive, albeit involving low labor. Even in coal-rich US states such as West Virginia the proportion of the workforce employed in coal mining is as low as 5 per cent.

Trump’s appeal and promise to coal miners and the coal industry played an important role in his election. But clean energy consciousness is growing in progressive states such as New York and California as they make plans for clean and efficient use of energy.

In fact, the Obama administration had already taken some steps to reduce the C02 emissions by 2025, to one quarter below 2005 levels. Should this happen, many European, Middle Eastern and South Asian countries could follow suit.

Thus, China could become a global leader in low-carbon technologies by taking a major role in building renewable and eco-friendly energy technologies, such as solar and wind, should the US and other rich countries renege on Paris.


The writer is Visiting Professor of International Relations at Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute and a former adviser at the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad. Shanghai Daily condensed the article.


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