Has China Turned Its Back on The Paris Agreement?
Climate change remains one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity, demanding global cooperation and commitment to achieve sustainable solutions. However, recent events have raised concerns about whether some countries, including China, are turning away from the collective efforts embodied in the Paris Agreement. China's rejection of certain climate-related proposals during the G20 negotiations has sparked debates on its commitment to the agreement's primary objective of limiting global warming to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels. This article explores China's stance, the potential reasons behind it, and the implications for other non-industrial or industrializing economies.
China's Recent Actions and Position
During the G20 negotiations, China resisted proposals aimed at ensuring the fulfillment of the Paris Agreement's central goal. The agreement, adopted in 2015, brought together nations to combat climate change and keep the global temperature rise well below 2℃, ideally limiting it to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels. However, China's refusal to endorse these measures indicates a shift away from the global consensus on climate action.
The G20 nations, including China, are responsible for a significant portion of global emissions, accounting for 80% of the total. Despite this responsibility, China claims that the G20's objectives are solely economic in nature, implying that climate-related issues are not within its scope. With global temperatures already rising by 1.1℃ above pre-industrial levels, the World Meteorological Organisation estimates a 66% likelihood of temporarily breaching the critical 1.5℃ ceiling between 2023 and 2027.
Potential Reasons Behind China's Stance
One possible explanation for China's reluctance to fully align with the G20's climate objectives lies in geopolitical tensions. Reports suggest that China has not positively responded to the United States government's approach to climate issues, interpreting it as coercive and overlooking China's efforts in emissions reduction. These strained relations may have influenced China's decision to chart its own course, independent of external pressures.
China's rapid industrialization, starting in the 1980s, has significantly transformed its economy. It now produces nearly 50% of the world's industrial goods. Coal, the cheapest and most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, plays a crucial role in its electricity generation, accounting for 42% of the on-grid energy supply. Despite increasing renewable energy capacity, China has continued to approve the construction of new coal plants, leading to concerns about its commitment to reducing emissions.
Should Other Economies Follow Suit?
As China distances itself from the G20's climate objectives, it raises questions about the potential implications for other non-industrial or industrializing economies. Climate change poses a significant threat to humanity, impacting countries worldwide, including China. The nation has recognized the severity of climate change and committed to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. However, it is unwilling to accept external input on achieving these targets.
While countries like Nigeria share similar goals of achieving net-zero emissions by 2060, following China's example may not be practical or beneficial for every nation. With only 20% of countries currently industrialized, prioritizing national interests over global objectives could jeopardize global efforts to combat climate change. Non-industrial or developing economies like Nigeria may face significant challenges in pursuing industrialization strategies reliant on high-emission energy sources, hindering their progress towards carbon neutrality.
Climate change remains a global crisis that requires cooperation and collective action from all nations. China's recent actions in rejecting certain climate-related proposals have raised concerns about its commitment to the Paris Agreement's objectives. While geopolitical tensions and a desire for sovereign development might underlie China's position, it is essential for countries to find a balance between national interests and global climate objectives. The failure of any nation to act can have far-reaching consequences for the entire planet. As the 28th Conference of Parties approaches, scheduled for November 2023 in the United Arab Emirates, all nations must recommit to mitigation efforts and work together to safeguard the future of our planet.