China has indicated that it will be focusing on economic growth and not the environment in the near term. President Xi Jinping stated that a net zero drive should not affect normal people as the country deals with a slowdown.
China is the largest emitter in greenhouse gases and is under pressure from the international community to accelerate its decarbonisation program. There are mixed signals about China’s commitment to going green.
The country has made a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060 and is now a world leader in wind power capacity.
China, however, also built record levels in coal capacity in 2020 as industry activity resumed following the pandemic. Furthermore, Mr Xi has repeatedly pushed back against the decarbonisation timetable demanded by other global leaders.
He has repeatedly argued against the notion that China, which has approximately half the US per capita greenhouse gas emissions, should not be required to reduce its emissions as quickly as other developed countries.
According to comments on Xinhua (the state-run news agency), Mr Xi said this week that decarbonizing should not be aimed at reducing productivity or cutting emissions completely.
According to Xinhua. Mr Xi also stated that it was vital to preserve energy and food security, as a well as to ensure normal daily life for people, during the transition towards a low-carbon economy.
He stressed that there should not be one-size fits all approach and that economic development and green transformation should be mutually supportive.
China and the US signed a joint pact on climate change at the Cop26 summit last year in Glasgow. However, Mr Xi declined his invitation and made no substantive new policy commitments.
The ruling party is worried about the impact of the downturn on jobs, growth, as it prepares for a critical meeting in which Mr Xis’ rule will be extended.
While most countries saw a decrease in their emissions following the pandemic in 2019, China’s rose 5.5% in 2021 compared to their 2019 levels. This was because China wanted to rebound with heavy industry.
China’s politicians have repeatedly stressed the importance of stability in the year ahead. And earlier this week, the government removed water quality targets for local governments.
We need new energy
Mr Xi also stated to Party leaders that the gradual withdrawals of traditional energy must be based in a safe and reliable replacement with new energy.
China has committed to accelerate the transition to renewables, but will not reduce coal consumption until 2025.
Analysts believe that China will meet many of its climate targets early and has made significant investments in green power.
According to Carbon Brief analysis, China has built more offshore wind power in 2021 than any other country over the past five years. This puts it ahead of the UK as the world’s leader, which was revealed this week by Carbon Brief.
China now has 26GW offshore wind capacity. This is almost half the global total of 54GW and a significant increase over the UK’s 10GW capacity.