Published: 23:44, February 21, 2024 | Updated: 09:39, February 22, 2024
China leads development of clean energy
By ​Zhou Bajun

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held from Nov 30 to Dec 12, was a historic achievement. A total of 198 countries signed an agreement that pledges to a transition “away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050”. The agreement also calls on all countries to triple global renewable energy capacity and double the global rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030, step up the reduction of coal use, and accelerate the development of technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

China is now at the forefront of the global development of clean energy. A report released by Wood Mackenzie, a leading energy consultancy in the UK, in December asserted that the global energy transition continues to gather steam as a result of the rapid growth of wind and solar power, and that renewable energy is expected to account for more than 50 percent of the world’s electricity generation by 2050. The report also confirmed that China is well ahead of the European Union and the United States in solar power development. As the world’s largest manufacturer of solar power components, China accounts for 80 percent of the world’s production capacity, and with its production costs slashed by 42 percent in 2023, the EU and the US are no match for China in this area. Therefore, China has effectively won the race for green technology capacity.

READ MORE: COP28 recognizes key role of nature, ecosystems in climate action

The success is made possible by the philosophy of “harmonious coexistence between human and nature”, which is one of the key characteristics of Chinese-style modernization. The paradigm shift in the global power balance and further deterioration in the geopolitical backdrop have also prompted China to speed up its power source transition, which will gradually help the country reduce the import of fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas.

The current climate crisis is the consequence of the global expansion of capitalism and its development model dating back to the Industrial Revolution in the UK. While the first three industrial and technological revolutions have unintentionally brought about climate change and ecological damage, the overexpansion of the market economy and the capitalist way of life has inflicted even worse damage to the climate and the ecology. Though Chinese-style modernization cannot avoid the natural course of industrial and technological evolutions, China and its people are doing their best to control the negative consequences.

Although the US and China are the two largest carbon emitters in the world, the US government and its mainstream society not only deny the serious damage caused by its advanced capitalist economy on global ecology and climate, but are also attempting to obstruct China’s path to modernization.

The most notable episode was an assertion made by former US president Barack Obama in an interview with an Australian TV station in April 2020, during which he claimed that the planet can’t afford to have more than 1 billion people in China living the way Australians and Americans do.

Obama tacitly shifted the responsibility for ecological protection and alleviating climate change onto China and its people, and made no reference to what the US’ capitalism and development model had contributed to such environmental impact. His remarks also suggest developed countries do not intend to change their production model and way of life.

Last but not least, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the West to change its longstanding way of life. And its politicians are now consumed by paranoia about how China’s rise will end the familiar way of life they are used to

On the other hand, China has been, after doubling its gross domestic product every seven to 10 years from 1978 to 2020, transforming its growth model and industrial structure from 2020 onward, shifting from rapid growth to high-quality development. The high growth rate over the past 40 years was accompanied by a rise in energy consumption and carbon emissions. China is now pursuing “dual carbon” goals, which are consistent with the low-carbon green growth model, to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.

China’s “dual carbon” goals, when achieved, will be a leap in comparison with the progress the US and its Western counterparts expect to achieve. When China reaches peak carbon emissions by 2030, its total energy-related carbon emissions will reach approximately 11 billion metric tons. With a population of 1.4 billion, this translates into 8 tons of carbon emissions per capita. For the US and other Western nations, their carbon emissions per capita are forecast to hover around 10 to 20 tons when they reach $20,000 to $30,000 GDP per capita, with the figures of Australia, Canada and the US near the higher end.

Besides, the US’ commitment to ecological protection and climate change control is severely disrupted and undermined by its internal political wrangling and division.

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The then-ruling Republican Party has withdrawn from multiple global climate actions and agreements. In 2001, the George W Bush administration pulled back from the Kyoto Protocol that had been signed by the previous president, Bill Clinton. Then in 2017, then-US president Donald Trump dumped the international climate change agreement negotiated by Obama, his predecessor. If Trump succeeds in his re-election drive this year, there is no guarantee that he will not revoke what had been agreed to in COP28.

Last but not least, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the West to change its longstanding way of life. And its politicians are now consumed by paranoia about how China’s rise will end the familiar way of life they are used to.

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.