China’s Push for Carbon Neutrality Appears to Be a Lie

November 2, 2021 Updated: November 3, 2021


Mother Nature, we’re told, is incredibly sick. According to one China expert, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is the man to “save the planet.” However, Xi is not an environmentalist; moreover, as this short piece demonstrates, Beijing’s climate-based pledges are heavy on promises, but devoid of genuine progress.

In many ways, China’s climate-centered promises contradict reality.

Professor Kerry Brown appears to view Xi as an environmentalist, maybe somewhere between Greta Thunberg and Al Gore. Brown is the director of the Lau China Institute and professor of Chinese studies at King’s College, London.

According to Brown, China’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2060 is a big deal, worthy of much praise. Moreover, “Xi’s surprise announcement at the UN General Assembly last month that China would no longer build coal-fired power stations abroad,” is a cause for celebration. “Despite all their perpetual arguments in other areas,” Brown wrote, “in this one, Europe, China and the US at least have some common ground.”

Brown should know better than to take Xi’s promises seriously. Remember, this is the same man who has the temerity to talk about upholding world peace, at the very same time he is overseeing a murderous campaign in Xinjiang.

Which takes us back to Xi’s “surprise announcement.” At first, the announcement appears to carry a great deal of weight. On closer inspection, it entirely lacks substance.

As the author Mathias Lund Larsen has demonstrated, “three-quarters of the world’s new coal plants are built inside [emphasis mine] China’s borders, with 250 new plants under development.”

To put that number in perspective, that’s five times the amount the Chinese Communsit Party (CCP) had planned to build overseas. Xi promised to stop building coal stations abroad, but he never promised to do the same at home. Brown appears to be oblivious to this rather important point.

The UN Climate Summit

The COP26 U.N. climate summit runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12. All eyes are on China, and for good reason. As the biggest emitter of fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on the planet, China’s emissions exceed all developed nations combined.

The CCP’s long-awaited national plan on greenhouse gas emissions, which was recently published, shows that the country has made little progress in its supposed push to reduce its carbon footprint. With promises of reaching peak level carbon emissions by 2030, this gives the world’s biggest atmospheric polluter another eight years or so to continue its destruction of the planet. China’s lack of progress should come as little surprise.

smog is pictured
Smog down a main street of Linfen, a city in China’s Shanxi Province, on Dec. 9, 2009. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

Cast your minds back to the Paris Climate Ambition Summit in December 2020. Xi made a number of bold promises, including, as the researcher Francois Godement has mentioned, “increasing the share of non-fossil fuels to approximately 25%, and bringing total installed capacity of wind and solar power to more than 1.2 billion kilowatts.”

However, to quote Benjamin Franklin, “Words may show a man’s wit, but actions show his meaning.” Xi’s promises, lofty in the extreme, are not being carried out. As Godement noted, “China’s energy trajectory since the COP 21 contradicts its goals, and the new Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) so far shows intent, but only few hard numbers.”

In this age of fashionable nonsense, some authors appear to be very keen on painting the Chinese regime as something that it’s clearly not. The idea that we are witnessing the dawn of a new China—for example, one committed to carbon neutrality—appears to be little more than a fantasy projection.

Xi’s concerns for the environment are performative, rather than genuine. If in doubt, consider the following: In September, China imported almost 4 million tons of thermal coal from Russia, according to a CNBC report. Interestingly, “China’s imports of thermal coal from Russia have either doubled or tripled from 2020 levels every month since May.” Moreover, according to CNBC, the monthly figures “this year also remain well above pre-pandemic levels in 2019.”

Furthermore, according to Our World in Data, a project by researchers at Oxford University, China releases an average of 10.17 billion tons of carbon emissions annually. The United States, on the other hand, releases about half the amount. To be clear, the United States still releases an ungodly amount. However, the Biden administration appears to be both obsessed with and committed to reducing the United States’ carbon footprint; Xi, on the other hand, appears to be feigning commitment.

Over the past two decades, the Chinese regime’s output of pollutants, which comes largely from a reliance on coal, has increased significantly. Today, China is responsible for 27 percent of global carbon emissions. As the researcher Simon Evans has noted, “China’s CO2 output has more than tripled since 2000, overtaking the US to become the world’s largest annual emitter, responsible for around a quarter of the current yearly total.”

Although China is experiencing a profound demographic shift, its population is still growing. With this increase in people, expect CO2 output to grow, especially since millions of the country’s citizens live a hand-to-mouth existence, relying heavily on coal to heat their homes.

China ranks first in the world for coal consumption. The use of coal is an old, time-honored habit; as we all know, old habits die hard. Quite often, they don’t die at all.

As the aforementioned Godement has pointed out, with coal, the “total consumption in 2020 rose back to its 2013 record level of 4.2 billion tons. Its share of total energy output also went back up from 52% to 58%, with some estimates being much higher because the actual availability of a coal plant is five times higher than that of wind or solar energy installations. In fact, the rise of coal consumption began one year after the Paris Conference.”

That “surprise announcement” from Xi was only a surprise because some people were silly enough to believe it.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of the New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, The Spectator US, and other respectable outlets. He is also a psychosocial specialist, with a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.