Thunberg Photo: VCG
When BBC’s Andrew Marr asked Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg why the UK should be making changes when China is still building more coal-fired power stations, what answer was he expecting? It’s obvious that the host was pushing Thunberg to criticize China in his program on Sunday, day one of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). The radical campaigner lived up to Marr’s expectations. She described China’s coal policy as “out of touch with reality.”
Thunberg, who skipped school for so-called climate protests at 15, has been portrayed as a devoted environmentalist in the West. She is a pretty good tool to divert public attention from the fact that the West is not doing enough to curb emissions. She was nicknamed by Chinese netizens “selective environmental activist” and a “puppet” of Western politicians after she blamed China for the global climate crisis while turning a blind eye to Japan’s decision to dump nuclear wastewater in May. Understandably, she is a favorite of Western media to heap criticism on China.
The West is launching a new round of attacks on China over climate issues. The G20 summit in Rome ended with a vague commitment on climate change, but US President Joe Biden and Western public opinion are chiding China and Russia for not doing enough, to shirk responsibilities for the Western countries. Regarding the ongoing COP26, many Western media outlets are also accusing China of not adopting more ambitious emissions targets.
When it comes to emissions reduction, we must adhere to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Global warming is mainly caused by developed countries including the UK. They emitted a large amount of greenhouse gases in their process of industrialization while transferring highly polluted and energy-consuming industries to the developing countries. They have an inescapable responsibility to reduce emissions and provide financial and technological assistance to developing economies.
However, they divert the focus of public opinion to China and call for China to make greater commitments. The truth is, China’s per capita emissions still remain well below those of the US, which has the world’s highest rate, at 17.6 tons per person. The Chinese figure only stands at 10.1 tons.
Marr and Thunberg also ignored a simple fact that China, as the world factory, produces a large number of consumer goods that are consumed in other countries. In other words, China is taking some shares of carbon emissions that should be counted as part of other countries’ emissions.
China has pledged to reach peak emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The time limit China set for itself is only 30 years, while the time taken by the EU, the US and Japan is 2.4 times, 1.4 times and 1.2 times that of China, respectively. China announced in September it would not build new coal-fire projects abroad. And China is already leading in renewable energy production figures. It is the world’s largest producer of wind and solar energy and the largest domestic and outbound investor in renewable energy.
Given the results China has made and the country’s institutional advantages in realizing grand strategic goals, the prospect of China becoming carbon neutral as planned is optimistic. The prospects in Western countries or other developing countries, however, are bleak. The West is facing numerous obstacles from big corporations and other domestic invested groups to make and realize their emissions reduction commitments.
The West is trying hard to criticize China for not doing enough and pass the buck. The US, in particular, has politicized the climate issues to facilitate its crackdown on China. Thunberg needs a better education and more knowledge to avoid being exploited by the West in its attempt to mislead public opinion.
India, the world’s third-biggest carbon emitter, has rejected calls to announce a net zero carbon emissions target. Australia’s newly released plan to net zero was heavily criticized as a scam because it lacked substance. Do Marr and Thunberg care?
No matter how the West hypes, China won’t set its emissions reduction targets based on the West and the US. China’s pace won’t be affected by Western public opinion. When the West can do nothing to advance their climate governance and solve their problems, they can only resort to slamming China to cover up their deficiencies, a symptom of the “China-cursing addiction.”