Maybe China isn’t an environmental vanguard – China’s latest political and current affairs news


A summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for June 14, 2017. Part of the SupChina newsletter, which packages the top business, political, and cultural news about China into a 360-degree view of the country that you can read in just a few minutes a day. Subscribe here.

Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a leading scholar in the study of Chinese environmental politics, took a pessimistic view on China’s role as a leader in the fight against climate change in a Politico op-ed this week. She points out the contrasting trends in China’s environmental influence — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and concludes that China is not yet ready to “fill the void that Washington is leaving” on climate change.

  • The good includes a forecast that China will meet its Paris commitment to have emissions peak by 2030, an increasing number of canceled new coal-fired power plants, and a whopping $78.3 billion that the country invested in renewable energy in 2016 — far more than either Europe ($59.8 billion) or the U.S. ($46.4 billion).
  • The bad includes the reality that China is now responsible for nearly a third — 29 percent — of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, a resurgence of coal-to-chemical plants as the country shifts away from traditional coal plants, and a continued resistance to international monitoring and verification of the country’s emissions.
  • The ugly, as Economy puts it, is that “whatever positive steps China is taking at home are not being replicated in its behavior abroad.” China’s position as the “world’s largest exporter of coal-fired power plant finance and technology” directly contradicts the spirit of the Paris Agreement, she says. The construction of over 100 coal-fired power plants is being sponsored by China in just the “Belt and Road” countries alone.

The contradiction between China’s roles in both clean energy advancement and the export of environmentally harmful technologies is neatly encapsulated in two stories from Bloomberg and Reuters. On the one hand, Bloomberg reports that “coal is no longer king as China spurs world shift to cleaner energy,” while on the other hand, Reuters notes that a mega dam is scheduled to be built by China in Pakistan in 2018, a project that has attracted criticism from India not just for running through parts of disputed Kashmir, but also for ecological and water security concerns.