“The fact of the matter is that there’s a reason why you have the largest gathering of world leaders probably in world history here in Paris. Everyone else is taking climate change seriously.” Barack Obama.
Like a lot of the president’s statements on climate change this isn’t actually true. In fact there are lots and lots of people in the world who know it’s a hoax. And among them, unfortunately, happen to be the ruling elite of the most significant carbon emitting nation of them all: China.
We know this because of a devastating report, released today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, written by one of the West’s leading experts on the Chinese environmental economy, Patricia Adams.
Adams, an economist, executive director of Toronto-based Probe International, who has been working with the Chinese environmental movement since the mid-Eighties, is under absolutely no illusions about China’s real position on “climate change.”
China sees it as a brilliant opportunity to fleece the gullible gwailo for as much money as it can, to burnish its international image by making all the right green noises, and to blackmail the West into providing it with free technology.
But it has no intention whatsoever of sacrificing economic growth by reducing its carbon dioxide emissions.
China knows this. The West either knows this or strongly suspects this. So any agreement reached next week which pretends otherwise will either be a fudge, a lie, or an outright capitulation by Western negotiators – because China knows what it wants and it isn’t budging, no sirree.
Here’s how Adams puts it:
China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is under intense international pressure to reduce its use of fossil fuels. Although China’s leaders aim to reduce the country’s fossil-fuel consumption to 80% of its energy mix by 2030, they will not forsake national economic growth for the supposed global good. This is because China’s Communist Party knows that to stay in power – its highest priority – it must maintain the economic growth rates that have raised the incomes of much of its population and kept opposition at bay. China’s leaders know that GDP growth is tied to fossil- fuel use.
So far so disastrous for the COP21 negotiations. But worse is to come, far worse.
Obama and other Western leaders like to pretend that China’s appalling air pollution – the “airpocalypse” afflicting major cities which kills at least half a million a year – gives it a strong incentive to reduce its CO2 levels. But in fact the opposite is true.
That’s because China understands – as the West pretends not to – that CO2 and “pollution” are very different things.
Not only do the goals of reducing carbon emissions and air pollution not reinforce each other, they conflict. Carbon dioxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas that does not harm health. Efforts to reduce it rely on un-proven abatement technologies, and are prohibitively expensive. In contrast, abating air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide rely on proven technologies and are relatively inexpensive.
In fact many greenies in the West secretly welcome China’s pollution because it makes the Chinese population more restive and environmentally conscious. But this is a delusion: even ordinary Chinese know that CO2 is not pollution.
The West’s climate change establishment is worried that if Beijing focuses ‘narrowly’ on eliminating the air pollutants that worry the general population, China will entrench cleaner-burning fossil fuels in its economy, costing the West its leverage over China’s energy policies. Yet the Chinese public is unlikely to tolerate a ‘carbon- first’ abatement strategy while it continues to breathe noxious air.
“I have never heard of a public protest in China against carbon dioxide emissions. CO2 is a major concern for Western NGOs with offices in Beijing but it’s a non-issue for Chinese citizens and environmentalists at the grassroots.”
Also, the measures China wants to take to deal with pollution – “scrubbers” on power plants, for example – will actually increase CO2 because they are more energy-intensive.
The solution to this apparently insoluble conflict of interests is very simple. China will be allowed by the Western negotiators to do and say whatever it wants because China has them by the balls and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it.
The apparent contradiction between what the West wants and what China’s leadership needs is easily resolved. China’s leadership knows that what China says to the West is more important than what China does, absolving it of the need to make any binding commitment to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. China also knows that Western leaders’ have no firm expectation of concrete commitments in Paris. Rather, their paramount goal is to maintain face at the Paris talks, which would collapse without China’s presence.
Not that we couldn’t have seen this coming. We reported on this a few weeks ago in a piece entitled China shows how much it cares about climate change: with a single upraised finger.
Adams’s report is worth reading in full not just because of the fascinating light it casts on the Chinese, their economy, their corruption, their political mindset and the tensions between the populace and the Communist party but also because of the very basic fact it underlines about Paris – and about all future COP negotiations.
Where international global warming negotiations are concerned, China – and developing nations like India, which is similarly reluctant to sacrifice economic growth for meaningless green targets – wears the trousers.
Even if China believed in keeping to emission targets, which it doesn’t, its officials are so corrupt, uninterested and growth-driven they would never police them.
China is leading demands from developing nations that the Western nations pay them $100 billion annually into a climate fund – and after 2020 – contribute 1 percent of their GDP to compensate them for the damage allegedly caused by their years of industrialization. This won’t happen. In return, nor will the developing nations halt or hamper their economic growth for the sake of green flag waving.
So it will be stalemate. Any agreement reached in Paris will be meaningless and toothless. And thank goodness for that.
Or rather, thank China.