Biden Walks the Walk on Climate Change While China Talks the Talk

April 24, 2021 Updated: April 25, 2021

Commentary

President Joe Biden organized his two-day virtual climate summit to start on the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement and end on Earth Day, so as to reassert U.S. leadership in the fight to halt so-called climate change.

However, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News, “The decision for the United States to reenter the Paris Climate accord and then the announcement that the president made today [to reduce U.S. CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2050] is an enormous gift to the Chinese Communist Party and a real threat to the United States of America.”

According to Statista, China has far more capacity from installed coal power plants than other nations, at 1,041.9 gigawatts, followed by the United States at 233.6, India, 229.2, and Russia with 44.8.

In 2020, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists USA, China was producing 28 percent of CO2 emissions, the United States 15 percent, while the UK and other European nations, apart from Germany, each produced around 1 percent. By law, Germany is committed to shutting down all its nuclear power stations by 2022; it currently accounts for 2 percent of global CO2 emissions.

China has 1,058 coal plants, yet its Paris pledge was to only start reducing its emissions beginning in 2030. In the meantime, it aims to add to its number of coal-fired plants substantially, with new plants already under construction capable of producing 97.8 gigawatts, and others yielding a further 151.8 gigawatts at the planning stage, totaling almost 250 gigawatts.

Then add to that the numerous coal plants that China is helping to construct elsewhere in the world, plus any more it manages to build domestically in addition to those already planned, by the time its pledge is due to start.

Just those known new builds are more than the United States’ entire current coal power capacity, which is around 234 gigawatts and dropping fast; the EU’s capacity in 2020 was 143 gigawatts and is set to fall to 60 gigawatts by 2030.

Strangely, those who passionately believe that the kind of air they breathe out every day and plants breathe in is now the biggest danger facing the world don’t seem to have a problem with CO2 levels rising exponentially in China.

As things stand, the sacrifices that the populations of the countries that have signed the Paris Agreement will have to make, from a net emissions perspective, will be meaningless—other than to take the hit and attempt to offset China’s phenomenal and dirty growth until its 2030 promise.

Rather than accept this gloomy prediction, the huge climate-change lobby believes it’s possible to change China sooner. One of those adherents is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Having legally committed the UK to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, he hopes his example will influence other nations to follow suit. He’s also including climate change reduction in trade deals.

Seeing America now reverse its skeptical climate policy under President Donald Trump seems to validate that view. Even before Biden’s inauguration, Johnson said, “I think now with President Biden in the White House in Washington, we have the real prospect of American global leadership in tackling climate change.”

While Johnson leads the Conservative Party, he has more in common with America’s Democrats, which explains the speed with which he rushed to congratulate Biden for winning the election before key states had finished counting, and despite mounting legal challenges.

His former finance minister, Sajiv Javid was more blunt and dismissed Trump’s election-result legal challenges: “The behavior of the U.S. president is frankly adolescent.”

Yet the change in America’s climate policy only came about because of a controversial election result—certainly not because of Johnson’s bargaining. Indeed, his attempts at climate hardballing seem to have blocked the all-important, post-Brexit U.S.–UK trade deal with the otherwise anglophile Trump administration.

And he has stuck to the same formula in his negotiations with the new Biden administration. He told reporters, “Those measures can not only reduce your CO2 emissions and enable us to get to net-zero by 2050, but they’re also capable of really moving the economy forward. So we look forward to talking about that issue with the White House.”

Yet the signals from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are still not looking hopeful for an imminent bilateral trade deal, this time due to Northern Ireland. Soon after the U.S. election was called, a reporter asked the president-elect if he would be willing to say a few words to the BBC, which he did: “The BBC? I’m Irish.”

Biden’s blatant snub of the UK’s national broadcaster led Nigel Farage to ruefully comment, “The Conservatives had four years to do a trade deal with the USA and pro-UK President, and they failed. There is no chance now.”

Nevertheless, buoyed on by the outcome of the U.S. election, China is now the next big hope for the global climate change lobby. But it doesn’t do elections, or get too worried about trade battles, and for all the encouraging speeches its delegation gave at the Biden climate change summit, these are still only words.

Just how virtual was it?

Andrew Davies is a UK-based video producer and writer. His award-winning video on underage sex abuse helped Barnardos children’s charity change UK law, while his documentary “Batons, Bows and Bruises: A History of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,” ran for six years on the Sky Arts Channel. 

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