Sliced: The Search for our Hero Continues

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In a world teetering on the brink of climate catastrophe, our collective gaze turns toward the prospect of a global superhero – someone to rescue us from the impending climate crisis.

The United States, with its vast resources and global reach, might seem like a natural candidate. But as we presented last week, political divisions have tied the country’s hands, rendering it unlikely to unify in the battle against climate change for the foreseeable future.

Who else could step up to the challenge?

China, renowned for its economic prowess, population size, and impressive infrastructure projects comes into focus. However, before China can put on the superhero mask, a closer look reveals some inconvenient truths.

First and foremost, China is undeniably the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, primarily due to its extensive reliance on coal-fired power plants. In 2006, China surpassed the US as the world’s largest polluter, a title its firmly held ever since. Presently, China emits nearly one-third of global emissions. Ouch!

While China has set ambitious climate goals, such as peaking emissions by 2030 and hitting carbon neutrality by 2060, translating these objectives into action is a monumental task. China needs to activate nearly $22 trillion USD between now and 2060. One mechanism to get money moving is green bonds. In 2020, China was the world’s second largest source of green bond issuance with $44 billion USD. That is an admirable amount of money but massively off the mark of what is required.

China is the world’s leader when it comes to producing and investing in green technologies such as electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines. To compliment that, the country is rapidly installing domestic clean energy. However, it is also a mammoth dirty energy producer and consumer, currently burning fossil fuels to generate more than 80% of its energy.

Internationally, China is on the move. Their Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a sprawling infrastructure enterprise that has invested in more than 150 countries and international organizations. Chinese state officials report that the BRI, “has established more than 3,000 cooperation projects and galvanized nearly $1 trillion of investment.” However, the BRI illustrates wide complexities. Although BRI projects could significantly impact the global climate landscape, they also raise concerns about sustainability and carbon footprint, as some projects are associated with carbon-intensive industries.

China’s economic priorities often overshadow its climate commitments, leaving us to question whether saving the world from climate change is genuinely its primary focus. The BRI, while transformative, prioritizes China’s economic interests and influence in global markets, which may not always align with global climate goals.

Finally, genuine global climate leadership hinges on diplomacy and cooperation. For China to ascend to the role of the climate superhero, it must navigate intricate international relations and forge collaborative efforts with nations worldwide. However, it often appears that China’s diplomatic strategy ranks its national interests over the advancement of global climate objectives. In this respect, China and the US find themselves in a similar predicament, both giving precedence to their respective nations.

As the world continues its search for a climate superhero, China’s journey to assume this role is marked by numerous challenges. Yet, the question remains: who else might rise to the occasion?

In two weeks, we will shift our focus to an exploration of our European allies across the Atlantic.

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