China appears to have pumped the brakes on its big green energy push-


China investigates ex-official who led major corruption case-


BEIJING: Power outages and natural disasters even in normal times in China alarm people as temperatures plummet. But this year has not been normal as a sudden energy crunch shuttered factories in northeast China and cut power to residential compounds forcing pregnant women and older adults to find themselves trudging up long flights of stairs in darkened hallways, a media report said.

Earlier weather conditions reduced wind- and solar-powered generation capacity and afterwards, China’s coal belt suffered heavy flooding. When freezing temperatures arrived three weeks earlier than usual, anxious officials urgently demanded an “all-out” boost in coal production. Some coal mines, mothballed in a bid to curb emissions, abruptly roared back to life, churning out the dirtiest of fossil fuels, reported Foreign Policy.

It came when the world leaders met in Glasgow for the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP-26) to discuss climate change, its mitigation and other relevant issues. Chinese President Xi Jinping skipped the summit and it drew criticism from many especially US President Joe Biden who criticised the absence of the Chinese leader and sniped at China’s unwillingness to sign onto his big pledge to reduce methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

However, Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate change negotiator defended the country’s updated national climate plans stating that Beijing now vowed to reach peak carbon “before 2030” and carbon neutrality “before 2060,” rather than “by” those dates.

Beijing has been talking about green for years but its way to renewables still is really hard and it matters as China is the top greenhouse gas polluter on the planet.

China is also the world’s top coal consumer as well as its top producer. Chinese officials cite many reasons for the country’s obsession with energy security and its economy’s continuing coal addiction. China’s economy is still developing, they say, and it is not fair for developed nations that have grown willy-nilly in the past to cramp Beijing’s development, said the Foreign Policy.

On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “It would take 71 years for the EU, 43 years for the US, and 37 years for Japan, all of which are developed economies, to move from carbon peak to carbon neutrality. However, China has set itself a time limit of only 30 years.”

Wenbin stated that the developed nations bear an unshakable historical responsibility for greenhouse emissions during their 200 years of industrialisation.

Last month, when power supplies dwindled alarmingly, it was a no-brainer that Beijing would resort to its default solution: coal. Authorities opened previously closed mines and built new coal-fired facilities with a vengeance, the American publication said.

Xie, China’s top climate negotiator, didn’t even try to hide the fact that China “may need to build some new coal-power plants to ensure the safety and stability of our power grid. But [they] will all apply the highest possible standard in terms of technology, emissions, and energy consumption.”

On the surface, electricity outages reflected a mismatch between supply and demand. As the pandemic appeared to recede, Chinese manufacturing rebounded more quickly than expected, spiking energy demand. The cost of state-provided electricity is cheap and subsidized; serious outages resulted. And there are structural flaws: inadequate reform, limited availability of renewables, foot-dragging by vested interests in the coal sector, and tussles between the central government and local government bureaucracies, according to Foreign Policy.

Further, it said that one big roadblock in China has been local authorities’ reliance on carbon-intensive real estate and infrastructure development to fuel growth, despite years of exhortations from the central government to rebalance the Chinese economy more toward a Western-style consumer-driven economy. “We need to pivot away from infrastructure-oriented growth to focus on domestic consumers–meaning ‘green’ consumption, not just eating more beef and driving bigger cars,” said Li of Greenpeace.

For now, China appears to have pumped the brakes on its big green push, overwhelmed by short-term emergencies and political exigencies.

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