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Rise of Trump Puts China in Position to Take Over Global Renewables Boom

Rise of Trump Puts China in Position to Take Over Global Renewables Boom

On the Blogs: Rise of Trump Puts China in Position to Take Over Global Renewables Boom

From transition away from fossil fuels is real—and in this context, other countries will spy the opportunity to master and supply the technologies needed for a carbon-constrained world.

Best positioned among these nations is surely China. “If America wants to forfeit that [renewable energy] leadership, or erode it, then China or India will very happily grasp it,” Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told Mashable. “China and India are very happy to have the global leadership of industries of the future that employ millions of people and are seeing close to $2 trillion of investment a year.”

Sure enough, Chinese state media reported that Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate envoy, told climate negotiators that his country—which the International Energy Agency recently confirmed had passed “peak coal” in 2013—would “act as facilitator to boost climate negotiations on implementing the Paris Agreement, regardless of the stance that the United States takes”.

Low-carbon innovation is a pillar of China’s strategy in the “new normal”: the era of economic upgrading towards higher-value industries the country hopes to see under its 13th Five-Year Plan, from 2016-2020. It already leads the world in installed wind-power capacity and is the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy.

Yet, as in many aspects of its economy, China still faces problems with implementation, from curtailment of renewable power (where wind and solar farms are not connected to the grid) to powerful local incumbents pushing the construction of coal-fired power plants that are likely to stand idle, or exporting overcapacity overseas.

Perhaps more critical is the potential erosion of trust that Trump’s victory represents: the climate accord agreed by Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, representing the world’s two largest economies and greenhouse-gas emitters, in late 2014 set a historic precedent, avoiding a collective action problem and smoothing progress towards the Paris Agreement, which Trump has vowed to “cancel.”

If Trump, who has also nominated an opponent of climate action as the head of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team, can undermine this cooperative stance, the question remains: will China step up and take the lead on climate change?

One Response to “Rise of Trump Puts China in Position to Take Over Global Renewables Boom”

  1. Thomas Malcolm Pendergast says:

    Climate Change: Even as China is busy blasting Donald Trump for not taking global warming seriously it’s ramping up coal production and throwing its promised CO2 reductions out the window. Hopefully, Trump won’t be as easily fooled by China’s duplicity as President Obama.

    At a meeting of environmental officials earlier this month in Marrakech, Morocco, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin lectured Trump about the importance of climate change.

    Just a few days later, the New York Times reported that “China is scrambling to mine and burn more coal,” and Fortune reported that the country is currently building $500 billion worth of new coal plants.

    According to other accounts, China has authorized coal mines to boost production by 1 million tons per day, as it tries to stimulate economic growth. Bloomberg reported earlier in the month that China’s five-year plan calls for a 19% increase in coal-fired generating capacity. The International Energy Agency, which had been praising China’s alleged decarbonization efforts, now says this “transient spike” in coal use could go on for years.

    This will, the Times notes, “make it harder for China and the world to meet emissions targets.” That’s because China is already the world’s largest producer of CO2 emissions, and any increase it makes can easily swamp reductions made by other countries

    Shanghai banker Brock Silvers said it best, when he told the Times that “I get a kick out of people in the West who think China is decarbonizing, because I see no sign of it whatsoever.”

    None of this should come as a surprise to anyone.

    Two years ago, we noted that the agreement Obama signed with China to cut CO2 emissions was ridiculously one-sided. While Obama pledged to cut U.S. emissions as much as 28% in 11 years, China agreed only to take action starting in 2030, giving itself 16 years to increase carbon emissions before promising to curb them.

    Then, just before the heralded Paris agreement last year, we learned that China had been burning 17% more coal than it had claimed for the previous 15 years — reminding everyone but climate change enthusiasts that relying on a communist country for accurate data was foolhardy.

    And now, less than a year after signing the much ballyhooed Paris agreement — which Obama said meant that “the world has officially crossed the threshold for the Paris Agreement to take effect” — we learn that China is busy increasing coal production.

    We’d be just as upset as environmentalists are about this development if we thought it meant anything. But as we’ve pointed out in this space, even if every country abided by their Paris promises, the impact on the global climate would be negligible. And that’s assuming there’s a crisis to be averted — a claim that grows more difficult to sustain as the climate refuses to warm up as predicted.

    The real problem with these agreements isn’t that China is cheating. When the choice is between growing one’s economy and fighting the phantom menace of “climate change,” the answer is easy.

    The problem is that Obama has been so willing and eager to strap a gigantic “clean energy” millstone around the economy’s neck, killing growth, adding to the cost of energy, lowering standards of living — all for nothing.

    Climate change might not be a “Chinese hoax,” as Trump once said. But China’s claim to be on the vanguard of fighting climate change certainly is.

    Trump might want to announce that, as president, he plans to follow China’s lead and put economic growth ahead of pointless, growth-killing CO2 reductions.

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