Combating Climate Change

The absence of the U.S. has not reduced the momentum for global cooperation on climate change

After the U.S. announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2017, many thought the international initiative to cope with climate change would be weakened. But the past two years have shown that this is not the case. Countries upholding their commitment to the agreement are actively implementing measures as planned, with good results. According to China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change (2019), released by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) on November 27, carbon intensity in China decreased by 45.8 percent from 2005 to 2018, basically reversing the trend of the rapid growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

This figure shows that China has fulfilled its pledge ahead of schedule to slash carbon intensity by 40-45 percent from 2005 to 2020. This also illustrates that as a major power, China is shouldering its due responsibility on the global and urgent issue of climate change.

Currently, China is facing many challenges as the world’s largest developing country, including economic growth, the improvement of people’s livelihood, the elimination of poverty and pollution treatment. The situation is especially grim under the pressure of U.S.-imposed tariffs. However, China has not shaken off its obligations to fighting climate change because of U.S. bullying or domestic pressures.

The Chinese Government has adopted an array of measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, such as industrial restructuring, more energy saving and efficiency schemes, the optimization of an energy mix, more carbon sinks and more pilot programs on low carbon, among others.

China has sacrificed its own economic growth to fulfill its promises: from 2016 to 2018, China accumulatively reduced the production capacity of more than 150 million tons of crude steel, with more than 35 million tons for 2018 alone. From 2018 to July 2019, China dissolved 12.65 million tons of surplus coal capacity, and from 2016 to 2018, China totally shut down more than 20 million kW of outdated coal-fired power units.

For those units that remain, the Chinese Government has adopted compulsory measures to make them more energy efficient. As a result, consumption of coal-fired power dropped from 325 grams per kWh to the current 308 grams per kWh, producing the worlds’ cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power system.

Meanwhile, China is sparing no efforts to develop non-fossil energy sources. By the end of 2018, power generation capacity based on renewable energy was at 730 million kW, up 12 percent year on year, accounting for 38.3 percent of the total installed capacity. In addition, the country’s renewable electricity capacity was 1.9 trillion kWh, 26.7 percent of total power generation.

China has also taken measures to reduce transport energy consumption by heavily investing in the development of electric vehicles. By the end of May, there were 976,000 charging piles, with 401,000 of them public, ranking first in the world.

China’s increase of forest carbon sinks is a good example for the rest of the world. Volunteer forestation efforts organized through the Internet and other means is being carried out by the entire nation.

According to statistics from the MEE, in 2018, 7.27 million hectares of forest were planted in China, with 8.67 million hectares of tending woods. The country’s overall forest coverage was 22.96 percent, with a forest stock volume of 17.56 billion cubic meters, making China the world’s largest grower of man-made vegetation.

Moreover, China is actively getting involved in basic science research on climate change. In 2018, China launched an Earth system numerical simulator facility, which is expected to greatly improve China’s long-term prediction capability.

It is important to note that China’s development kicked off only after the greenhouse effect had already taken shape as a result of emissions from developed countries like the U.S. The span of industrialization in China is only a few decades old, but nevertheless, its development is now tied to actions to fight climate change.

Since 2018, top Chinese officials have conducted talks on coping with climate change with leaders of many countries and international organizations such as the European Union, the African Union, Russia, New Zealand, France and Chile, among others, with corresponding agreements signed. Meanwhile, China is also actively engaged in global South-South cooperation and is providing other developing countries with assistance within its capacity. By the end of September, China had signed more than 30 memoranda of understanding with other developing countries.

In conclusion, the absence of the U.S. has not reduced the momentum for global cooperation on climate change. As a staunch defender of multilateralism, the Chinese Government continues to strengthen and deepen cooperation and exchanges with other countries on the fight against climate change in order to promote consensus among all parties and push forward the process of global climate governance.