Xi Jinping’s Broken Climate Promise

August 16, 2021 Updated: August 16, 2021


China’s coal burning and steel production are up. That means lots of emissions and more global warming. Limits on greenhouse gas emissions are the latest promise that Xi Jinping is breaking. He apparently cares more about China’s economic and military expansion, than he does about the future of this green planet we all share. That puts the rest of us in an uncomfortable position. Fight back, give up, or face climate catastrophe.

Xi apparently thinks that Western environmental softies will blink before he does. He’s probably right. That means that China’s economy, and therefore its military power, will continue to skyrocket, while Americans, Europeans, and Japanese do the hard work to limit emissions, and therefore ensure that our democratic homelands are green when the Chinese tanks roll across and rip them up.

Before then, we’ll try to bargain with China to decrease all emissions at roughly the same rate, which is what former President Obama attempted, and failed, with the Paris Agreement of 2015. As China increases emissions during the bargaining, we all move toward what scientists believe is catastrophic and irreversible damage from greenhouse gas buildup. Currently led by President Biden’s climate czar, John Kerry, Americans and our allies will get increasingly nervous as emissions continue during negotiations. Eventually, Biden and Kerry will cave, just as Obama and Kerry caved to the Iranians to clinch a nuclear deal.

Time is on China and Iran’s side because democracies can’t withstand the public pressure for environmental measures as much as autocracies can.

Xi knows this. He will wait us out until we get to the point of no climate return, and that is when we cave. He will use his greater risk acceptance, and better insulation from public pressure, to bring us to the brink of environmental catastrophe in order to force us into concessions that weaken our economy relative to China’s. This moves China one step closer to the world domination it seeks.

In Paris, China pledged to peak emissions by 2030, which was already a huge U.S. and European concession given that we promised at the same time to immediately start decreasing emissions. Like fools, the United States and Europe believed, or wanted to believe, China’s promises. In exchange for nothing, we made immediate concessions.

Now in the first two quarters of 2021, it is clear that China is violating those Paris promises. Instead of decreasing coal-powered steel mills by 30 percent, which is required for it to meet the 2030 peak, it expanded them sharply. Finland’s Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) tallied the announcement of 43 Chinese coal-fired power plants and 18 steel-making blast furnaces in the first half of 2021.

China announced 35 million tons of coal-dependent ironmaking capacity in early 2021, a capacity that will emit 150 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. According to the Financial Times, which reported on the CREA data, this equals the total emissions of the Netherlands.

Lauri Myllyvirta at CREA told the Times that steel makers were not abiding by the carbon emission reduction agreements that limit 2021 emissions to the same level as 2020. Steelmaking is China’s second-largest emitting industry. Myllyvirta said, “I don’t see the maths for getting to carbon peak by 2030 without a 30 percent reduction from steel.”

Instead, China expanded power from thermal, wind, nuclear, and solar in the first half of 2021, compared to two years prior, with thermal expanding much more than other power sources, and at the greatest rate than in any prior year since 2012, according to the CREA data.

Rather than instituting a campaign to lower emissions per its promise, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo issued a warning this month, according to the Times, against such environmentally beneficial campaigns by local governments.

Greenpeace, which in the past has given China a pass, released a report this month that showed up to 90 percent of China’s national bond relief after COVID-19 lockdowns directed to the kinds of traditional infrastructure that drives pollution. Of China’s municipal bonds, 60 percent went to traditional infrastructure, while only 15 percent went toward green, low-carbon, or sustainable projects.

China’s economy has pumped so hard over the summer that municipal governments had to institute power rationing, according to which factories limited their hours of operation. This makes the CCP think it looks bad, as the CCP believes its legitimacy at home, and attraction for investors abroad, is connected to GDP growth.

That impression must end now. China must lead on reduction of emissions, or the rest of the world must do a better job of forcing it to do so. Anything less will accelerate China’s relative economic and military rise, at the expense of the United States, Europe, Japan, and allied democracies. China is using environmental brinkmanship against us, and we must respond forcefully, or face climate catastrophe.

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

Anders Corr
Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”