China’s main concern is air pollution, not emissions

Financial Times, 28 November 2019:

In December 2016, an FT report by Jamil Anderlini claimed that “China is now poised to become the world’s leader in tackling global warming”. We have come a long way since then (“A climate leader turns laggard”, The Big Read, November 26).

China’s main environmental concern is air pollution, and it started investing in renewables so that it could shut coal-fired power stations based in urban areas. Concern over climate change was always a secondary consideration, as demonstrated by China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is funding 300 new coal-fired power plants in other countries. It is also building more coal-fired power stations in China itself. So China will be opening new plants faster than the EU can phase them out.

China has been quite adept at hiding its true trajectory. Instead of carbon emissions, the only measure that matters to the environment, it talks about carbon intensity. It has promised to produce 20 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2030, but energy demand in China is scheduled to double by 2030 compared with 2010, so there is little prospect of China stabilising its carbon emissions, let alone reducing them.

In their joint declaration, presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Xi Jinping of China announced that the Paris climate deal was “irreversible”. It would be more accurate to say that climate change itself is on the brink of becoming irreversible.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones,
Help Rescue The Planet,
Marlow, Bucks