With the recent moves of the U.S. administration, can the world now look to China for climate change leadership?
Why is it happening ?
China is the world’s leading oil importer. But China is recognizing that it needs to move its energy consumption away from energy forms that clouds many of its cities in conditions that massively impair the quality of life of its citizens. Their plan, according to China’s National Energy Administration, is to make 15% of energy consumption clean by 2020. This goes along with reports from the Guardian that China is currently leading the world in domestic investment in clean energy, worth over $105 billion in 2015. In addition to that, China is also on the way to become the global leader in investment in international companies that are looking to push for green energy.
Why does it matter?
First, China along with India are one of the most populous states in the World. If the one of the most populated place on the plant really changes its ways, it has a huge impact on the current situation of the globe. Furthermore, the more money China continues to put into the market, the cheaper technology will become and the easier it will be able to spread across the world. The second reason why this matters is because the current U.S. administration appears to be stepping back from the international clean energy agenda, rolling back previous clean energy plans. Consequently, the international community needs a new leader on the world stage regarding climate change and clean energy. States like India need an international powerhouse to look up to and a friend to lean on for future international treaties e.g the Paris Climate Agreement. The “developing world” appreciates greatly the damage that climate change can cause. But they need a major world power to help them transition away from traditional energy sources that much of the “West” has moved on from long ago. China and not America can play that role. This can be seen by President Xi Jinping’s statements at international platforms. At the the World Economic Forum in January 2017 he urged the new leadership of the United States not to step away from the hard fought gains of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
What can you do about it?
Whilst China is continuing to lead the world from an investment standpoint in part due to its size, there is little economic rationale as to why other countries can not follow their lead and go big on clean energy. But it is also important to remember that a national government strategy does not have to dictate what is happening at the local level. As Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City said at an event in Brooklyn earlier this month, people can and need to push their cities’ leadership to take steps and engage with the growing number of private sector organisations to make their neighborhoods cleaner. This can be done in many ways. Support local politicians who take the climate issue as seriously as China has. If you are in the United states, get involved in the Clean Cities partnership program. Internationally, you can engage with an organisation called The Climate Group which works with regional and state governments to initiate climate action. If steps are not taken at a local level then it is unlikely to push national politicians to take the issue as seriously as it needs to be.
Image Credit: Huffington Post
Ethan Mclaughlin briefs from Birmingham, United Kingdom. He is a candidate for a Master in Arts in International Development with a focus on Conflict Security & Development.