Earth Talk: Is China helping or hurting the fight against climate change? | Lifestyles

Dear EarthTalk: I’m confused: is the Chinese government committed to tackling climate change or just making the problem worse?

Paul J., Austin, TX

In the wake of the Global Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, nations around the world are not only reflecting, but also expecting others to bear their brunt as we desperately try to prevent the planet to warm up. China is a common target for emissions critics; the most populous country on the planet uses fossil fuels for 87% of its energy production. To compound the problem, 80% of this fossil fuel consumption is represented by coal-fired power generation. China is the world’s largest coal producer, consuming more than half of the world’s supply.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has responded to criticism of the country’s coal production by pledging to gradually reduce its coal use from 2026 and halt the construction of new coal-fired power plants overseas. Although it does not expand its coal-fired power plants to other countries, China has 60 new coal-fired power plants in production nationwide, arguing that it has the right to pollute by developing its country, just like western countries did it to develop their economies.

China has been the world leader in carbon dioxide emissions since 2006 and is now responsible for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. While they have proven to be prolific polluters, the nation is also demonstrating that they are at the forefront of renewable energy. China is the world leader in solar energy production with 254,355 megawatts per year, while the nearest country, the United States, produces only 75,572 megawatts.

It is important to recognize that when it comes to raw data associated with greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy production, China’s population of 1.4 billion (more than four times that of United States) inflates these values. In terms of percentage of energy consumption, the United States and China are much closer than it seems. The United States uses renewable energy for 9% of its total energy production, while China’s renewable energy production represents 10% of its total energy consumption. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the two countries are considered “grossly insufficient” in their efforts to meet the emission reduction targets necessary to mitigate global warming.

China’s latest announcement includes its goal of peaking emissions by 2030 and ultimately reaching carbon neutrality by 2060. While that goal falls far short of reducing the impacts of global warming, diplomats Environmentalists are optimistic that China will meet these targets early, citing that China met nine of the 15 quantitative targets of its 2015 climate pledges ahead of schedule.

Reducing emissions does not mean that China will reduce all of its fossil fuel consumption, but it can also strive for carbon sequestration through reforestation. China is becoming greener at a faster rate than any other country, with some regions increasing vegetation cover by 16% per decade. Globally, while the country’s sheer population makes their pollution numbers look much worse, they are on the same path as other world leaders like the United States: taking ‘green’ steps, but not enough. quick.

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