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China doing more to fight climate change than recognized

China doing more to fight climate change than recognized

But will developing country pressure and US cooperation be enough to persuade Beijing to take more aggressive action?

When it comes to climate change, no nation is more important than China. It consumes more coal than the rest of the world combined, and it is the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for nearly 30% of global emissions.

Unless China takes rapid steps to control its greenhouse gas emissions, there is no plausible path to achieving the Paris climate agreement aim to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F), or even the less ambitious target of “well below 2 C” (3.6 F).

So, what is China doing to help the world avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and is it doing enough?

China’s record is mixed. Over the past year, China has signaled that it intends to continue on its well-worn path of making modest, incremental contributions to combat climate change, an approach inadequate for achieving the Paris goals.

Yet, as an expert in environmental diplomacy who has followed China’s actions for years, I see reasons to think China might increase its efforts in the coming years.

China’s measured approach to climate change

A common misconception is that China either lacks climate policies or fails to implement them. The reality is that China has a robust set of climate and energy policies and a strong track record when it comes to fulfilling its pledges to the international community.

Driven by a desire to reduce air pollution, enhance energy security and dominate the industries of the future, China has been the world’s leading investor in renewable energy since 2013, and it has been buying up raw materials those industries need, such as cobalt mines in Africa.

It has three times more renewable energy capacity than any other country, and its electric vehicle use is growing. As of 2019, about half the world’s electric vehicles and 98% of electric buses were in China.