Media outlets may agree that China is the world’s new “climate leader,” but the communist country won’t commit to policies that many politicians and environmentalists say are necessary to cut emissions.
Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, told reporters Tuesday that China was not considering a tax on carbon dioxide emissions or creating a carbon futures market.
“In the initial stage we will not do carbon futures, because we are worried that suddenly entering the futures market with no experience could cause chaos in the market,” Xie Zhenhua told reporters.
On top of that, China has not yet met its pledge to get a national cap-and-trade system up and running this year. China has some regional pilot programs, but its promise for a carbon market has not yet materialized. Xie Zhenhua said the plan is simply waiting for final approval.
Media outlets have pointed to China as the de facto “climate leader” since President Donald Trump announced in June that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.
Former Vice President Al Gore echoed that claim, telling the Nikkei Asian Review that China was positioned to lead in the fight against global warming.
“President Xi Jinping has made a very bold commitment to position China as the world’s leader in helping to solve the climate crisis,” Gore said.
China made big promises when joining the Paris accord alongside the Obama administration in 2016, pledging to ultimately peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and improve the emissions intensity of its economy.
However, one year into the Paris accord and global greenhouse gas emissions are projected to hit record levels in 2017 — almost completely due to increased industrial activity in China.
“The most significant factor in the resumption of global emissions growth is the projected 3.5% increase in China’s emissions,” Global Carbon Project researchers wrote in a recent report.
“This is the result of higher energy demand, particularly from the industrial sector, along with a decline in hydro power use because of below-average rainfall,” the researchers wrote. “The 2017 growth may result from economic stimulus from the Chinese government, and may not continue in the years ahead.”
China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, and that’s not expected to change for some time. China is expected to emit more as the country continues to develop and residents begin to consume more and more.
Environmentalists who argue that the global economy is “decoupling” from carbon dioxide emissions say China’s uptick was on temporary and would continue to flatline.
Though, many other experts note the world has a long way to go before emissions are truly “decoupled” from economic growth. The vast majority of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels.
The Global Carbon Project estimates global emissions will grow again in 2018, largely because of industrial activity in China.
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