Can China deal with climate change without the U.S.?

Juncker-Jinping-Tusk

Jean-Claude Juncker, Xi Jinping and Donald Tusk (from left to right) Date: 12/07/2016. Location: Beijing – Diaoyutai State Guesthouse © European Union , 2016 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Olli Geibel

Last Tuesday U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order which rejects most of the climate initiatives of Obama’s administration. The U.S. President seems to keep his pre-election promises on boosting the coal industry and does not support the fight against global warming.

However, China, the second largest economy in the world, has revealed that is not only intending to contribute to tackle global environmental pollution but to take the lead as well. Besides, the 13th five-year Chinese plan (5YP) is also focusing on green development and how it can be aligned with economic growth.

U.S. drops the climate effort

Donald Trump’s “Energy Independence” order creates severe turbulences in the Paris climate change agreement. U.S. President’s intention to quit the agreement and promote energy independence and economic growth seems to be working. The long effort of the former U.S. president to build initiatives such as the Clean Power Plan which is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants were discarded.

Therefore, Trump’s climate policy is about to cause serious problems backsliding the attempts of all UN member states that have pledged to reduce their national gas emissions and keep the temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

China targets green growth

The Chinese government has stated that the climate change policy is one of its main targets. China’s UN permanent representative mentioned two weeks ago at a High Level UN event that China remains committed to its climate cooperation. More specifically, Liu Jieyi said: “We will honor our commitments and take action to produce results.

We will work together with the rest of the international community to implement the Paris Agreement, turn the challenge of climate change into the opportunity of transforming to green and low-carbon development so as to realize sustainable development”.

Furthermore, the Chinese President Xi Jinping, attending the World Economic Forum 2017, pointed out that the Paris Agreement is a “hard-won achievement which is in keeping with the underlying trend of global development and indicated his support for clean energy stating that China’s efforts to pursue green growth were paying off”.

5YP against climate change

Climate change and environmental protection are perennial part of the 13th five-year plan which outlines the Chinese economic development over the next five years up to 2021. The 5YP climate goals target on setting measures and policies which will control and reduce CO2 emissions.

Moreover, the plan includes the reduction of China’s carbon intensity by 18% by 2020 compared to 2015, reduction of energy intensity by 15% and increase of non-fossil energy to 15% of the energy mix. The government intends to cut the level of PM 2.5, tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and appears as a concern for people’s health, by 18% till 2020.

In general, China has been showing strong support to the climate change battle and implements strong measures against air and water pollution. Environmental challenges are a way to produce green development through quantifiable targets which include the development of more ecological security barriers and encourage the use of waste straw as a resource.

EU supports China

The need for a strong China in the climate change fight, the moment that the U.S. is stepping back, is imperative and the EU shares this opinion and points out that both should show joint leadership. Especially now that the EU is facing serious problems such as Brexit and migration crisis which can affect negatively the EU budget and by extension green investments.

More specifically, the EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete mentioned in Beijing last Thursday that the EU and China are “committed to driving forward the global battle against climate change” despite the U.S. decision to make a significant step back. The latter shows that the EU is determined to keep on struggling against environmental pollution but definitely more aid is needed in order to produce remarkable results.

Climate needs everyone’s help

It seems that after COP21 in Paris, the fight against climate change has slowed down given also the fact that Donald Trump’s administration has officially opposed to it and is not willing to contribute.

However, the initiative of China to lead the way in this fierce battle is very promising taking into consideration that China accounts for almost 30% of the world’s CO2 emissions. The time is running out and it is certain that more must be done by each and every country in order to have tangible chances to maintain the temperature level increase below two degrees Celsius.

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