“After having ransacked the economies of the world’s liberal democracies and wrecked what is still quaintly called the “rules-based international order,” Xi Jinping’s police state in Beijing has now made it abundantly clear that under Xi’s supreme-leader command, the People’s Republic is determined to seize the global agenda on climate change.
And if the world responds with Canadian-style accommodation and capitulation, Beijing will persist in its ambitions — even to the point of taking the global climate hostage while the rest of us, as well as the Chinese people, suffer the consequences of catastrophic climate change. More heat domes, more apocalyptic floods, more ruinous ecological collapse.
It’s been 16 years since the Kyoto Protocol entered into force, and 12 years since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in Copenhagen. Six years ago in Paris, the world’s major greenhouse-gas emitters committed to a target that would hold the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 C higher than pre-industrial levels, aiming to restructure economies to cut net emissions to zero by 2050.
It’s not all about oil anymore. It’s all about coal, and it’s all about China.
China has been far and away the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases since 2001, when the country leapfrogged North America’s carbon emissions after having tripled its output during the last decade of the 20th century. Since 2001, while the North American and European output remained fairly steady and has now slightly declined, China’s contribution to the planet’s carbon load doubled again. Carbon emissions from Japan and Russia have flat-lined since 2001, and while India’s greenhouse gas output has doubled this century, it’s still only half the United States’ output. Ed Note: despite considerable increases in electricity production from renewables.
Canada barely registers at about 1.6 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, but this relatively piddling contribution to the climate crisis still puts Canada among the top 10 countries in the greenhouse-gas sweepstakes — and in no way absolves us from the responsibility of shouldering our fair share of the international effort to keep the planet cool. But while we’ve been busy beating up on those beastly Albertans, Beijing has been laughing at us.
China’s phenomenal economic growth since the 1990s has come with enormous environmental costs. Driven primarily by global trade — Chinese workers tend to be too poor to afford the goods they produce — China’s rise to superpower status has been fuelled by the burning of coal, which is the single greatest cause of climate change. The World Bank reckons about half the planet’s carbon dioxide emissions come from coal.
Private Canadian investment in China nearly doubled last year
The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has invested heavily in China, including $2 million in a firm associated with the manufacture of fighter jets and drones, and $3 million in a company that manufactures parts for China’s navy. Private Canadian investment in China nearly doubled last year. According to Cong Peiwu, China’s ambassador to Canada, “direct investment in China soared by 95.9 per cent year-over-year.”
China Finances coal production in many countries
Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, Chinese banks have emerged as the top 10 lenders for coal financing around the world. The main investors: the Bank of China, China CITIC Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. It’s a profitable racket, with no risk of furious Chinese masses choking on coal pollution. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air has found that China’s overseas coal projects, in some of the world’s poorest countries, produce pollution up to seven times as toxic as China’s domestic standards allow.
The U.S.-China talks in Tianjin this week went nowhere, and Beijing’s postures and demands made one thing abundantly clear. The idea that despite our differences with China, liberal democracies must somehow come to a co-operative rapprochement with Beijing is as much an obsolete cliché as the notion that it’s all about oil.