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Climate arsonist Xi Jinping?

Beijing and US agree to increase climate commitments

from Richard Smith

 . . . President Xi Jinping gave hope to despairing environmentalists with his stunning announcement to the UN that:

“Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of Nature and go down the beaten path of extracting resources without investing in conservation, pursuing development at the expense of protection, and exploiting resources without restoration. The Paris Agreement on climate change charts the course for the world to transition to green and low-carbon development. It outlines the minimum steps to be taken to protect the Earth, our shared homeland, and all countries must take decisive steps to honor this Agreement. China will scale up its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by adopting more vigorous policies and measures. We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

Nevertheless, Xi’s pledge raised more questions than it answered. What did he mean by “carbon neutrality”? How can he keep growing China’s emissions for another decade – and then throw his immense coal-fired dreadnaught into reverse to force emissions down to zero in just 30 years? China’s CO2 emissions are already more than double those of the United States (with GDP just 63% as large) and are currently growing by 4-5% per year. America’s cumulative and per capita emissions still exceed those of China. But after three decades of breakneck growth China is catching up fast. Its annual emissions now account for 30 percent of the global total against 15% for the US, 10% for the EU, and 7%for India, the next biggest emitters. If they continue growing by just 4% p.a. (which would less than their average growth rate over the past three decades), they will be nearly 50% larger by 2030, triple the level of US emissions today – and enough to precipitate climate collapse regardless of what other countries do.

. . . Many observers think Xi is well-positioned to force through the transition to renewables. Thus historian Adam Tooze writes:

“It is precisely because the Communist Party regime is bent on shaping the next century that its leader takes climate change seriously. In the calculus of the regime, Yangtze river floods are, like Hong Kong rights protestors, a threat to its grip on power. The future for Beijing’s authoritarian China Dream looks far more uncertain in a world of runaway global warming.”

Tooze, like many, thinks that Xi will be able to impose his will because he’s boss of the world’s most powerful police state: “No other state, rich or poor, can match the authoritarian capacity of the Chinese regime to repress dissent among the domestic losers of transition.”

My argument in brief

 I contend that regardless of his stated intentions, Xi cannot meet this carbon-neutral goal because the Communist Party’s overriding priority since Mao’s day has been to “catch up and overtake the United States” by turning China into the world’s leading superpower. To this end he has no choice but to maximize the growth of the very industries that are driving China’s emissions off the charts, including coal-fired electricity generation, even if this accelerates global warming dooming China and the planet too. Furthermore, I claim that there are technical and political barriers to decarbonizing electricity generation in China. As regards the political barriers, I maintain that Xi cannot systematically enforce his will against theoretically subordinate officials (including those putative coal-based “loosers”) because he is not an absolute dictator but rather the primus inter pares in a collective ruling class in which power is widely dispersed such that local officials can and often do defy Beijing when it suits their interests. Lastly, I contend that Xi himself is disinclined to force through the transition to renewables even if he could, because this would disrupt and undermine his higher priorities.

read more: http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue94/Smith94.pdf

  1. RedRosa
    April 19, 2021 at 9:46 pm

    Interesting framing, which conveniently leaves out past CO2 emissions. Maybe because the US is responsible for about 40% of the collective amount in the atmosphere?

  2. John Jensen
    April 20, 2021 at 12:12 am

    “ooze, like many, thinks that Xi will be able to impose his will because he’s boss of the world’s most powerful police state: No other state, rich or poor, can match the authoritarian capacity of the Chinese regime to repress dissent among the domestic losers of transition.”

    But, China’s economy has already exceeded that of the USA (not on a per capita basis) and China also has 100 times more engineers then America so are well placed in history to become the green energy leaders in now chimney carbon scrubbers and equipment and manufacturers. China already has new transportation infrastructure and the USA has an old outdated system – China’s trains are high speed and Amtrak travels at a safe 50 mph speed so as to not fall off the rails. CHina is set to lead the world of IA and 5G Technology over the next century and the USA is crying for chip production. Xi can easily lead the world in alternative energy production whereas the US is still trying to cope with methane emissions from their increased oil and gas drilling and have neither regulations nor an authoritarian government to deal with it or their coal produced electricity. At least china can switch to nuclear and the politics in the USA says no!

  3. Benjamin
    April 20, 2021 at 8:33 am

    Many Nations and their political and economic leaders can show their clean hands while offshoring the production of everything to China. Honest debate for all could only be achieved by counting what is being produced under the guise of today’s globalisation and consumed as imported goods and services “at home” only to be more profitable for some and available for others, while the planet and future generations most likely pay for that in non economical terms. For example i drink all kinds of black tea. While i buy all this in a small shop i sometimes think about this very personal situation. This tiny shop sells only speciality food like tea, dried fruits, spices, coffee but from all over the world and for me it is in a way the most globalised (and thinkjng about the environment probably the most dirty in terms of emissions) yet here i am drinking black tea from China. Is there a way out of this in terms of protecting the living conditions of generations to come or not?

  4. Bernard Guerrien
    April 20, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    Chinese “regime” ?

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