China, Politics

PDC 10 – China’s Real Progress on Climate Change Goals

How is China doing in terms of tackling the issue of Climate Change? Is it on track to destorying our planet?

Turns out it is doing better than many other countries, including the US. Let’s go through some fact:

Climate Change Performance Index 2019

According to Climate Change Performance Index, an independent monitoring tool of countries’ climate protection performance, China has a rating of Medium and a ranking of 33 among 60 countries.

In the same ranking, the United States is ranked 59th, second from the bottom with a rating of Very Low.

Screenshot of Climate Change Performance Index 2019 Overview Map

Climate change report card – National Geographic

Accoring to National Geographic’s Climate change report card, China in the cateogory of “Shows some promise“. To quote:

China: The good news: China is on course to meet its Paris targets. The bad news, according to CAT: Those targets are woefully inadequate, and not ambitious enough to limit warming to below 2 degrees C, let alone to 1.5 C as required under the Paris Agreement, unless other countries make much deeper reductions at comparably greater effort. China’s CO2 emissions—already the largest in the world—grew an estimated 2.3 percent increase in 2018; in fact, with current policies, China’s greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise until at least 2030, although a recent study concluded they may in fact peak a decade earlier. The Chinese government has heavily subsidized the manufacture of electric cars and has sought to reduce the number of gasoline-powered cars on the road; in 2018, Chinese consumers bought 1.1 million electric vehicles—more than the rest of the world combined. China is the largest manufacturer of solar technology in the world, but it is also the largest consumer of coal, and is financing the construction of coal-fired power stations around the world.

This is contrasted with the assessment for the United States, which got “Barely trying“. Again to quote:

United States: Where to begin? CAT already ranked U.S. Paris targets as “insufficient.” With the Trump Administration’s ongoing hostility toward climate action, it now categorizes the country’s efforts as “critically insufficient,” their lowest ranking. Among the swings that the present administration has taken at its predecessor’s climate policy: It has attempted to roll back the Clean Power Plan; sought to relax vehicle efficiency standards to such an extent that even vehicle manufacturers have objected; and announced plans to weaken regulations to limit HFC emissions and regulation of methane leaks from oil and gas production.

Climate Action Tracker (CAT)

Climate Action Tracker (CAT) is the source for National Geographic above. On CAT’s country profile page, we can see China being rated as HIGHLY INSUFFICIENT.

This is taking into consideration of the newly planned coal-fired power capacity:

The IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C found that coal needs to exit the power sector by 2050 globally if warming is to be limited to this level, and efforts by China to reduce coal in the next few years will be critical to this. In global cost-optimal, Paris Agreement-consistent pathways, China phases out coal by 2040. China’s emissions, like the rest of the world’s, need to peak imminently, and then decline rapidly. Discouragingly, China started construction of 28 GW of new coal-fired power capacity in 2018 after a previous construction ban was lifted, bringing its total coal capacity under construction to 235 GW.

Note that this is despite China being “on track to meet its 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)” from Paris Agreement and “also likely to achieve its 2020 pledge”. To quote:

China is on track to meet its 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) , which the CAT rates “Highly insufficient.” China’s NDC is not ambitious enough to limit warming to below 2°C, let alone to 1.5°C as required under the Paris Agreement, unless other countries make much deeper reductions at comparably greater effort. Under current policies, China is also likely to achieve its 2020 pledge. Given that China is on track to achieve its climate targets, its next step could be to set an example by submitting a strengthened NDC to the Paris Agreement by 2020. (For details on China’s NDC, see “pledges and targets” section). China has indicated that it is working on updating its NDC.

On the other hand, USA is rated as CRITICALLY INSUFFICIENT. This is considering the uncertainties around the US politics. To quote:

Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, which mandates a three-year notice period, the US Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) legally remains in place at least until 2020, although the US intends to withdraw it at that time unless it has found suitable terms for reengagement, and the Trump Administration has already stopped implementation.


Maybe China is not the greatest of destroyer of world?

Update: Another interesting perspective is to look at the “CO2 importers and exporters”, as outlined by Carbon Brief in their story Mapped: The world’s largest CO2 importers and exporters:

Despite the large total of CO2 imports and exports, US emissions are only 6% higher and Chinese emissions are 13% lower when CO2 transfers are taken into account.


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