Regardless of Trump policies, China will be a global leader in climate change

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/23 0:08:39

The different attitudes adopted by the US and China toward climate change have recently been made even more pronounced. While China reportedly canceled plans to build 103 coal-fired power plants, the Trump administration committed to "reviving America's coal industry, which has been hurting for too long," per an announcement posted on the White House's official website shortly after the new president was sworn in.

Will these diametrically opposite views build up China's prestige as a world leader on climate change? We'll have to wait and see. But what is certain is that the new US president needs abundant political resources to revitalize the country's coal industry. Some energy sources, such as natural gas, are cheaper than coal in the US, eroding the competitiveness of the country's coal industry and resulting in job losses. Although President Donald Trump is committed to eliminating policies such as Obama's Climate Action Plan that calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to give a break to the US' coal sector, such efforts are perhaps not proactive enough to revive the industry. The Trump administration may have to continuously tap political resources to leverage the development of the coal industry.

However, Washington will perhaps be put under external pressure once the new administration becomes overly active in revising policies to give the US' coal industry an advantage. Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a carbon tax on US imports if Trump rips up the Paris Agreement on climate change. We don't know how far the Trump administration would go in promoting its new climate change plan, but the uncertainty brought by Washington could affect Chinese public opinion on climate issues.

As some Chinese netizens grumble and question why developing countries like China should strictly comply with commitments to reduce  emissions, Chinese authorities need a firm determination to continue the process of supporting energy-saving and emission-reduction plans.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying last week that "China will continue to take steps to tackle climate change and fully honor its obligations." China's decision to cancel 103 coal-fired power plant projects will reportedly eliminate a combined capacity of 54 gigawatts, more than the entire coal-fired output of Germany. What's more, the country is stepping up efforts to promote industrial upgrading and expand the use of clean energy. China is expected to fulfill its promise regardless of Trump's policies and will play a stronger leadership role in the international efforts against climate change.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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