博客 Blog

China can’t follow the US on climate change, say experts

The US plan to cut its carbon emission is unlikely to serve as a template for China, argue climate experts

Article image

US plans to cut carbon its carbon emissions will not change China’s climate policy, says Li Junfeng (Image: Raul Villalon)

President Obama’s recent announcement that the US will seek to cut carbon emissions by imposing tougher restrictions on coal-fired power stations has been received with cautious optimism by many climate policy observers. In addition to reducing its own emissions (the US is the world's second largest emitter of CO2), observers hope other countries will commit to similar reductions, especially China, which has been the world's largest emitter since 2006. 

But reaction to the announcement within China has been mixed. Li Junfeng, Director of the National Centre for Climate Change Strategy, said that the plan takes “action on climate change without putting employment or the US economy at risk. This is political manoeuvring by the Democrats, something both parties need to do in the run-up to the mid-term elections.”

Li also questioned the feasibility of implementing the plan. “Obama has bypassed Congress to act alone, but without full legislative force. The move allows individual states to set their own rules, and so far at least three have said they will not do so.”

Yang Fuqiang, a Senior Adviser to the National Resources Defense Council, echoed Lin’s reservations. “Obama’s move is backed by civil society and the ordinary people, but there is still obvious resistance. It remains to be seen if the programme will actually be implemented.”

It’s unclear whether China will follow the US example. While there has been speculation that an absolute cap on carbon emissions might feature in China’s next Five Year Plan (covering 2016-2020), there has been no official confirmation. 

Li believes the announcement “will not change China’s climate policy: China has already made its intentions for 2020 clear.” But he made the point that the US and China face different constraints when it comes to altering their energy strategy.

“[The US] already has the technology and resources to do this; whether it actually does or not is just a political choice. But in countries such as China and India, the technology isn’t there, so the politicians do not have the same choices. 

“Emissions cuts can’t happen without improvements to the energy structure. In China the people won’t allow us to keep relying on coal; but it can’t be removed from our energy make-up. This is something the policy-makers need to think about. China can’t try and keep up with the US on this.”

But some Chinese experts believe that the US approach can still prove a beneficial example for China. Wang Yi, Director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Policy and Management, believes that although China needs to focus on reducing pollution, this will inevitably involve reducing CO2 emissions.

As for the setting of binding emissions targets, Wang believes this could still happen in a gradual fashion.

“China could also refer to the US approach and implement staged total caps – but not as a single measure, in combination with specific roadmaps. There is no point in lofty goals which cannot be achieved. We should just keep working, slow and steady.”

Now more than ever…

chinadialogue is at the heart of the battle for truth on climate change and its challenges at this critical time.

Our readers are valued by us and now, for the first time, we are asking for your support to help maintain the rigorous, honest reporting and analysis on climate change that you value in a 'post-truth' era.

Support chinadialogue

发表评论 Post a comment

评论通过管理员审核后翻译成中文或英文。 最大字符 1200。

Comments are translated into either Chinese or English after being moderated. Maximum characters 1200.

评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

奥巴马——中国寻求减缓气候变化的盟友

奥巴马总统的发言证实了在减缓气候变化方面,他可能是中国人民的坚定盟友。

作为交换,奥巴马也希望得到中国的支持,来尝试改变目前拒绝实施其法规的三个州(尤其是那些最有影响力的企业)的立场。

Obama - an ally of China in seeking to decelerate climate change

President Obama's announcement tends to confirm that he is potentially a strong ally for the Chinese people in so far as they seek to decelerate climate change.

In return, he would presumably welcome the independent support of China when trying to change the stance of the currently three states (and implicitly their most influential businesses) which refuse to set their own rules.