Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

Will China save the planet?

A recent blog by my colleague, Luke Sherlock, comes highly recommended by markontour and is well worth a read for anyone still wondering if China is serious about building an ‘ecological civilisation’. Reviewing Barbara Finamore’s recent book, ‘Will China Save the Planet?’, Luke highlights that China’s federal government is quietly delivering something like the Green New Deal that a growing climate emergency movement is demanding in the USA and Europe (and is already being delivered in cities like Los Angeles and New York). There are still some big policy changes that need to happen, particularly to green the $4-$8 trillion Belt and Road Initiative outside of China, but the scale and pace of change of China’s investment in renewable energy and electric vehicles alone is staggering enough to provide some reasons for optimism.

Naysayers, of course, are going to point out that China has the largest carbon footprint of any country in the world. It does – more than the USA and the Europe Union combined, but then its 1.4 billion population is considerably bigger than the combined 830 million of the EU and USA. China has contributed 12% of global carbon emissions since the industrial revolution, against 26% for the USA and 24% from the EU.

But it is where nations are going, rather than where they came from, that is more important in the context of climate change:

  • China has trebled installed renewable energy capacity in the last 10 years, to 695GW. In the same period the USA increased from 127GW to 245GW and the EU from 238GW to 466GW.
  • China is the world’s largest producer of wind energy, with a 33% global share, having increased capacity 10-fold in 10 years. In the same period the US trebled its capacity and the EU a little more than doubled.
  • Solar power generation in China has increased from 0.4GW to 175GW since 2009, giving it a 36% share of global production (the largest), while EU generation has increased from 17GW to 117GW and the USA 2GW to 51GW.
  • In the last quarter of 2018, 60% of global electric vehicle sales occurred in China.
  • This is not to use rose-tinted glasses – there have also been plenty of new coal-fired power stations, polluting factories, and unnecessary construction. But the scale and pace of delivery of renewable infrastructure in China shows that the transformation we need to see world-wide is conceivable to achieve.
  • * Source for all above statistics: International Renewable Energy Agency Capacity Statistics 2019

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