China will talk a good game at the UN Climate Conference in Paris, but won’t make any binding commitments, concludes The Truth About China, an important new report published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
“China’s Communist Party has as its highest priority its own self-preservation, and that self-preservation depends overwhelmingly on its ability to continue raising the standard of living of its citizens,” states economist Patricia Adams, the study’s author and the executive director of Toronto-based Probe International, an organization that has worked closely with Chinese NGOs for decades.
“With China’s economic growth faltering, the last thing the Communist Party wants is to hobble its economy further by curtailing the use of the fossil fuels upon which its economy depends. A major cutback in fossil fuel use represents an existential threat to the Communist Party’s rule. It simply isn’t going to happen.”
Adams’s report includes another important finding: tackling CO2 emissions would do little if anything to curb the serious air pollution – dubbed “airpocalypse” – plaguing China’s major cities. On the contrary, the measures needed to curb China’s smog of life-threatening pollutants such as nitrogen and sulphur oxides – scrubbers on power plants, for example – actually increase CO2 emissions.
“A programme to rapidly reduce pollutants harmful to human health would be at odds with a programme to reduce CO2,” Adams states, noting that human health is unaffected by CO2, a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas. Next to keeping its economy afloat, the biggest challenge to its credibility that the Communist leadership faces is its need to reduce smog. “I have never heard of a public protest in China against carbon dioxide emissions,” Adams states. “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.”
All that China will commit to, says the Adams report, is to continue to improve the energy efficiency of its economy as it grows – a goal it has long pursued, independent of global warming concerns. In doing so, China aims to increase its GDP along with its fossil fuel use, and by 2030 or so will depend on fossil fuels for 80% of its energy use, down from today’s 90%. When it reaches 80% 15 years hence, its energy makeup will largely resemble America’s today.