Cambiamenti climatici

The world in the hands of China. Why can Beijing save or destroy the planet?

Will China write the fate of the world? The question emerged in an interesting analysis by The Economist and concerns the crucial issue of our time: the fight against climate change.
While the world's powerful people meet at the COP 28 climate conference, in the setting of the United Arab Emirates which owes its wealth to oil, debates heat up on the concrete possibilities of avoiding further warming of the planet.
And Chinese economic policy becomes crucial in this area.
The USA and China compete for the record as the largest polluting country in the world, in a rivalry that finds no respite, not even in the delicate area of CO2 emissions.
However, if Americans are on the top step of the podium for carbon dioxide emitted per capita, China wins over everyone as the nation that emits the most total emissions.
For this reason, the dragon has ended up in the sights of analysts.
Beijing's strategic choices will be fundamental in the fight against climate change.
Meanwhile, heartening and more threatening news for the planet is arriving from China.
So China can save the world: what is it doing for the climate? Today China is an industrial power, hosting over a quarter of the world's production, more than the USA and Germany combined.
Its progress has naturally come at a huge cost in terms of emissions.
Over the past three decades, China has released more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, in total, than any other country and now emits more than a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases each year, according to Rhodium Group, an American research firm.
This is approximately double that of the USA, which comes second (even if on a per capita basis the United States is first), as shown in the Ispi graph: The comparison does not even hold up with other emerging or already developed powers: it is the dragon the most polluting power in the world.
The graph from The Economist is clear in this regard: It is therefore no coincidence that Beijing is often singled out for its weight in polluting emissions and that the global pressure on it is at the highest levels.
However, analysts have highlighted that not only bad news is coming from China for the planet.
The peak in emissions, in fact, is expected before 2030, the target year for the dragon.
The Asian power is building nuclear power plants faster than any other country and has also invested heavily in renewable energy, so much so that it can already count on around 750 gigawatts of wind and solar generation capacity, around a third of the world's total.
By the end of the decade the government aims to have 1,200 GW of such capacity, more than the European Union's total electricity capacity at the moment.
Not only that, China's carbon-intensive steel and cement production is declining.
After decades of building roads and railways, the government is spending less on large infrastructure projects and the strategy for the future envisages more sustainable development and less weight of traditional economic sectors such as real estate and infrastructure.
Simply put, according to observers, China's "dirtiest" development phase is probably behind us.
Why the dragon is still a danger to the planet However, the coin has its downside.
If it is true that China's commitment to fighting polluting emissions is clear, the difficulty in transforming a huge nation into a completely sustainable production system is equally real.
China has pledged to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, but “dirty” coal still provides well over half of China's energy.
This is down from around 70% in 2011, but the amount of coal China burns continues to rise as demand for electricity increases.
China mined a record 4.5 billion tons of black rock last year and approved the construction of about two new coal-fired power plants every week.
Even though many of these were never built, the point is that the dragon is not moving away from coal as quickly as environmentalists would like.
Part of the problem is that the country has a lot of this polluting fuel.
With little oil and gas, coal provides China with a secure source of energy.
Digging it creates jobs.
Building a coal plant, whether necessary or not, is also a common way for local governments to stimulate economic growth.
China's power grid was also built with coal in mind.
Now, with the advent of wind and solar the whole system will have to change.
When there is a surplus of energy in one place, it will have to be stored or moved elsewhere.
Otherwise China will not be able to host many new wind turbines and solar panels in the future.
The change is also revolutionary for the Asian power.
Also be careful of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Some countries are able to reduce methane emissions in simple ways, such as by repairing leaky gas pipes.
But most of the methane from China leaks from coal mines or is produced by microbes in rice fields.
Solving the problem is difficult without closing mines or changing agricultural practices.
Therefore, at the 2021 UN climate summit, China refused to join more than 100 other countries, including the US, which have pledged to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030.
China has also made clear that it will not bow to pressure on climate change.
Earlier this year Xi Jinping, its leader, reiterated his goal of reaching peak carbon by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.
“But the path, the method, the pace and the intensity for achieving this goal should and must be determined by ourselves.” No interference is allowed.
But the climate issue is an urgency that calls the world into question and requires collaboration more than ever.

Author: Hermes A.I.

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