China vs. Developed Nations on Climate Change

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It’s no secret that when it comes to climate change, China is considered the worst offender. Despite its status as the world’s largest carbon emitter, China has recently admitted that the country lacks the proper preparation or resources to truly tackle the climate change issue.

Intensified extreme weather and natural disasters have pummeled China for several decades resulting in thousands either becoming displaced or killed. Close to 2,000 individuals each year are victims of natural disasters such as typhoons and droughts. Some of the failings the nation has had with regard to mitigating the effects of these disasters have been an inability to prevent the destruction of necessary infrastructure such as power and water.

A salient factor that could be contributing to China’s inability to truly tackle its contribution to climate change is the fact it still relies on massive amounts of coal plants to fuel its economic development and manufacturing sector. Its unmistakable reliance on coal seems to be a large disincentive to create climate policy with teeth.

Another factor standing in the way of China creating aggressive climate change policy is its deeply held view that developed nations bear most of the responsibility for climate change and consequently must pay poorer nations on a yearly basis for having to deal with the problem. Reuters reports that poorer nations have demanded payment from developed nations amounting $30 billion eventually increasing to $100 billion by 2020.

The Warsaw conference, where the issue of climate change compensation has been raised, has seen no shortage of drama over the issue. Once developed nations such as the EU and US stated they will not engage in talks regarding compensation until after 2015, China and 132 developing nations walked out of the conference. Developed nations such as Australia were accused of not taking the talks seriously as exhibited by their wardrobe of t-shirts worn at the conference and eating snacks during the negotiations. China and other nations see this issue as a “red line.”

Although China’s admitted lack of resources to combat their emissions as well as the absence of caps on their emissions under the Kyoto protocol could lead outside observers to lose hope the country possesses any desire to truly tackle climate change. But there have been some successes on China’s part.

For example, The Guardian sheds light on the latest Climate Change Performance index which shows a slower growth of CO2 emissions and significant investment in renewable energy on China’s part. One of the main reasons China sees it necessary to increase its use of renewable energy is the presence of dangerous pollution within many of its urban centers. Luckily, policies aimed at reducing air pollution have been accompanied by a resulting decrease in CO2 emissions.

As the world’s largest producer of carbon emissions, China has a serious stake in the future of climate change mitigation. Whether or not its status as the largest carbon emitter places a significant responsibility on the country is up for debate. Only time will tell if China is able to truly initiate significant policies that address its contribution to global climate change.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: Reuters UK, Reuters, The Guardian, The Guardian