mandag 30. desember 2019

Can China Lead the Fight on Climate Change?

As soon as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, a narrative surfaced among the international community: China was to become the “leader” in the global fight against climate change. The word “leader” brings to mind the image of a virtuous hero. One may be quick to dismiss China’s suitability for the role, given its less-than-heroic environmental record. Its economic reforms since the late 1970s may have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, yet the speed and scale of environmental destruction has been simultaneously unparalleled.

Much of China’s polluting production has roots abroad, as its cheap labor, land, and lax regulations have attracted bounteous foreign investment. But plenty of China’s pollution is homegrown, coughed out by the coal-fired power plants that fuel the nation’s economic engine, the industries and infrastructure projects that keep the masses working, and the Toyotas and Buicks prized by the mushrooming middle class. 

Since 2007, China has surpassed the United States as the leading greenhouse gas emitter, responsible for 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. And the late-coming neoliberal behemoth is currently offshoring emissions abroad through its controversial Belt and Road Initiative.