China struggles to achieve its climate ambitions

In northern China, in the province of Shanxi, the city of Datong loves coal so much that it dedicates a museum to it: a huge anthracite building erected on an old mine in which visitors can also descend. Inaugurated in 2012, this museum was initially conceived as an ode to this mineral to which the country owes so much. General theme: without coal, no civilization. Except times are changing. In 2019, the scenography had to be modified to incorporate the famous sentence of Chinese President Xi Jinping: “Clear rivers and lush green mountains are a priceless heritage. “

The Datong Coal Group, which operates around 30 mines and manages the museum, now presents itself as “The leader of the national campaign for the energy revolution”. The explanatory panels change from gray to green. We learn that this public company is also investing in solar energy. In fact, in this poor region, whose roads are rutted and where many buildings are crumbling, the fields now expose countless solar panels, while the hills are covered with wind turbines. Even in the land of the “black mouths”, the energy transition is underway.

Xi Jinping pledged at the United Nations podium in September 2020 that he would ensure “That CO emissions2 reach their maximum before 2030 and for China to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 ”. Even the Chinese government, it is said, had not been made aware of the latter objective beforehand.

In Kunming, the notion of “ecological civilization” introduced in the Chinese Constitution in 2012 was imposed to the detriment of the concept of “sustainable development”, considered too Western.

China, responsible for 27% of global greenhouse gas emissions, could have used the American withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement as a pretext for not keeping its own commitments. She did not do it. On the contrary, Beijing saw the White House’s climate skepticism as offering it an opportunity. Not only would his companies increase their lead in this strategic area, but Xi Jinping would be able to embody a country which, unlike the United States, took care of the planet.

Is China being criticized by the new Biden administration for exporting its pollution by financing coal-fired power plants abroad? Xi Jinping again creates a surprise in September 2021 by announcing, still before the UN, that Beijing will stop funding new coal-fired power stations as part of its colossal “new silk roads” investment project.

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