Shortly after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the USA is set to pull out of the Paris Agreement. The pledge, which has been ratified by 135 countries, hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as increase countries' ability to deal with impacts of climate change. ("Status of Ratification.")
With the U.S. out of the picture, China is looking to lead the charge against global warming. Inadvertently, China possibly prevented countries that wanted the United States' support in the Paris Agreement from withdrawing from the pledge. Zou Ji, deputy director of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy, states in an interview to Retuers, "China’s influence and voice are likely to increase in global climate governance, which will then spill over into other areas of global governance and increase China’s global standing, power and leadership". (Wong)
Short Term Goals Edit
China has already proven that they are very dedicated in shifting toward renewable energy. As of early 2017, 11% of the country's energy came from renewable sources (Chang). China hopes to bring this number up to 15% by 2020 and 30% by 2030.
In addition, Beijing's last large coal-firing plant closed its operations on March 18, 2017. This means that Beijing is the first Chinese city with power plants being fueled solely with clean energy. ("Beijing's Last Large Coal-fired Power Plant Suspends Operations.")
In addition, China will hope to have invested $364 billion USD in solar power by 2020 and to have built 1,000 new solar power plants by 2022. Along with increasing the movement toward increased renewable energy output, the new plants are estimated to provide 13 million jobs. ("China to Invest £292bn in Renewable Power by 2020.")
Solar Power Edit
Instead of the iconic rooftop solar panel, China harnesses most of its solar power from solar panel farms. These farms require much land and only generate solar power during the daylight hours. The China Minsheng New Energy
Investment Group plans to build a solar panel farm as large as 7,000 city blocks with the hopes that it will generate about two gigawatts of energy for mainly northeast China. The energy will then be sold to utilities or companies such as Apple (Fehrenbacher).
Within the last decade, China has become a fierce competitor in the solar industry and plans on maintaining its position. To develop their solar industry, China has invested in solar companies and invited U.S. solar industry leaders to develop them. China is willing to offer those who help develop their solar industry cheap labor, tax credits and other incentives. Developing China's solar industry is one of its top priorities and was even included in the five year plan. Liu Zhenya's, the chairman of the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), vision is for China to develop a "global grid" that allows for the distribution of renewable energy to areas that cannot harness renewable energy themselves. The grid has been named the Global Energy Interconnection (GEI). The project would consist of three phases.
- Phase one would require individual countries to improve their power grid
- Phase two would require the connection of individual grids into regional grids
- Phase three would entail the development of an undersea grid connecting regional grids
As most Chinese leaders do, Zhenya refers to his vision as a "win-win situation" because energy generated in countries like Africa and Central American would be sold to major cities thus helping less developed countries develop and helping developed cities become more environmentally friendly (Fialka).
Other Green Initiatives Edit
In addition to its focus on solar power, China also has established a cap-and-trade program as well as transitioning away from coal. China also does not tax electric car purchases, nor does it allow GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), specifically genetically modified foods. Some argue that China did not make this choice for the sake of ethics, but rather because they produce enough food already. To support the transition to electric automobiles, China has announced its intentions to invest $16 billion in developing electric car charging stations (Matthews).
In order to fund such expansive plans, China has announced plans to allot a significant amount of money to pursing its green initiatives. For example, they plan to spend 1 trillion yuan on solar power plans, 700 billion yuan to wind farms and 500 billion yuan to hydro power. They also plan to generate 150 gigawatts of solar power and 250 gigawatts of wind power by 2020. Perhaps China's most well known green energy project was the Three Gorges Dam. China has also developed a "Green Finance Task Force" which set guidelines for issuing green securities (green bonds). Although China's generation of green energy has grown rapidly, the infrastructure, power grid, to support the distribution of the harnessed energy is lagging leading to China wasting some of the energy it generates. These financial measures could help China take better advantage of their progress ("China to invest $360 bln in renewable power in 2016-2020").
Long-term Predictions Edit
The New Silk Road's plan to connect Eurasia economically and transportation-wise may allow for greater cooperation and coordination in green initiatives. The Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xiamen, China, suggests that the New Silk Road infrastructure will better facilitate the movement of people and resources in an equitable and efficient manner. They also predict that it will be easier to share ideas that could help conserve and preserve our environment. In addition, the Academy foresees that the connections will help spread technology ("Yesterday's Silk Road..."). Other scientists believe that socioeconomic growth and environmental changes are linked. They describe this concept as "telecoupling", the idea that the effects of multiple things flow back and forth with no beginning and no end ("Yesterday's Silk Road...").
In an interview with Jin Jiaman, the director of Global Environmental Institute, Jiaman voiced her concerns with the New Silk Road's possible environmental implications. One of her main concerns is the New Silk Road's emphasis on the economy. She is worried that companies will prioritize profits over environmental costs. In addition, Jiaman knows that sometimes the environment suffers from economic development in the form of industry and urbanization. She wonders about how China will impose their environmental regulations. For example, will China hold countries that they work with to their own environmental regulations, or will New Silk Road members be left to determine their own environmental regulations? At the same time, Jiaman acknowledges China's "green finance" as a step towards addressing the New Silk Road's possible environmental effects. "Green Finance" is China's economic plan to budget for environmental initiatives in order to demonstrate how the environment is one of China's top priorities (Qiu).
Works Cited Edit
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Chang, Lulu. "China Is Now the World’s Largest Solar Power Producer." Digital Trends. N.p., 06 Feb. 2017. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
Fehrenbacher, Katie. "Here's Where the Worlds Largest Solar Panel Farm Is Under Construction". Fortune. 23 Sept 2016. Web. 18 March 2017.
Fialka, John. "Why China is Dominating the Solar Industry". Scientific American. 19 Dec 2016. Web. 18 March 2017.
Matthews, Kevin. "5 of China's Green Initiatives That Will Put Us to Shame". Care2. 6 Sept 2014. Web. 18 March 2017.
Qin, Liu. "How to build environmental protection into 'New Silk Road'". chinadialogue. 13 Sept 2016. Web. 30 April 2017.
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