China Climate Change Energy Environment

China’s addiction to coal

The world believes China is leading the way on green energy. In reality, Xi Jinping’s political legitimacy depends on fossil-fuel powered growth for stability.

Broadcast by Between the Lines, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Probe International’s Patricia Adams joins Between the Lines with Tom Switzer to discuss China’s record highs for coal production. Beijing has approved its largest expansion of coal-fired power plants since 2015, which comes as a shock to many who see China as a world leader in green energy.

Under intense pressure from the U.S. to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels since the 2009 United Nations climate change summit, Beijing made its current position clear this past month. On the heels of face-to-face talks in Beijing between climate envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, each representing the world’s two biggest polluters, Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared Beijing would address climate change at its own pace.

Patricia Adams, talking to Tom Switzer, summarizes that position as business as usual for fossil fuels:

 “The Chinese government has essentially said thank you very much but, no. We’re going to do this at our own pace and we’re not going to be under the sway of anybody…. This means, we’re carrying on with our fossil fuel consumption because that’s what keeps our economy going.”

Growing the economy, which is currently in the doldrums, is the number-one job for the government to maintain regime legitimacy, says Adams. Fossil fuels are also needed to drive the CCP’s dream of world domination by 2049, the centennial of the Party’s founding, she says. “And they can’t do that with windmills and green energy.”

Without much in the way of their own oil and gas, China relies on what officials call the “balanced stone” of the country’s energy supply: coal. The tension between the capacity of fossil fuel to generate growth and the inability of green energy to keep pace highlights deeper issues with green energy expansion. Even environmentalists are more and more concerned about the consequences of going green: in particular, the resources required (mineral extraction) and the number of power stations needed to generate the same energy volume as fossil fuels.

 “Deceiving the West into believing they are going to get C02 levels down,” says Adams, is “useful to [China] to get the rest of the world to shut our fossil-fuel power plants because it weakens our economies.”

Without China, there is no future for the climate change agenda, says Adams. But China’s agenda follows its own course.

Listen into the discussion here (17:32 mins in):

To listen on Apple Podcasts, see here:

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