A few weeks ago, Washington and Beijing signed a joint statement that ensured they would ratify and respect the decisions taken at the December climate summit in Paris and signed today at United Nations headquarters in New York.
It was a significant step, a kind of “real” agreement after so many promises and strategies that went far beyond the topic. It confirms the will, at least on the Chinese side, to continue on a path that the communist leadership has had in its viewfinder for years. After all, China has accused developed countries of placing too much responsibility on developing countries, without accepting accountability for their own affect in previous years on climate change.
It became impossible for China not to take the issue head on, given the very serious national situation. Chinese cities covered by smog, polluted waterways and the complete absence until recently of environmental regulation of companies has led the country into dire social tension surrounding environmental issues.
On this subject, the local press has long argued that “China is still in its development path. To maintain its growth rate, it will consume more energy. Its energy and industrial model represents a tough challenge ahead for the country. But China will keep its promises, looking at sustainable development of China and the world,” keeping in mind that “China itself is a victim of climate change and has become the country with the largest investments in the world’s energy, using clean energy and recycled energy.”
In 2010, in fact, China has become the largest producer of wind power in the world and in 2008 was the largest producer of solar panels.
After record smog in Beijing last winter, which in some ways helped “clear through customs” the fact of a problem, China for the first time in an official way understood it had to change from an energy model based mostly on coal. The government has taken a decisive turn toward forms of renewable energy.
By the end of 2015, the official Communist Party newspaper the Global Times was reporting that China considers fighting climate change “a great opportunity” to grow the economy and sustainable development, quoting an economic official in charge of the transformation. The government said it would put more emphasis on the green economy, improve the industrial structure and support low-carbon energy consumption.
But Beijing has long had green development on the agenda, specified in the nation’s previous five-year plan. The Chinese leadership knows that the transition is necessary and a harbinger of business from significant numbers. In a report, “China 2050 High Penetration Renewable Energy Scenario and Roadmap Study,” the Energy Foundation of China observes that non-fossil fuel energy sources might eventually make up 91 percent of total energy production in China while coal could decline from 75 percent to less than 7 percent.
“Wind and solar have the potential to become the energy backbone of the country,” the report said.