Net Zero Emissions with Chinese Characteristics

In 2020, Communist Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that the People’s Republic of China will be “carbon neutral” and achieve “net zero emissions” by 2060. This announcement was greeted with much fanfare by green energy advocates around the world. According to state-run Global Times, the communists are also “all-in” on the greenies’ crackpot scheme of carbon trading, too: “China’s national carbon market, the largest emissions trading system (ETS) in the world, was officially launched on Friday, marking a milestone for the nation’s institutional innovation in pushing ahead green development and a crucial step for the country to decarbonize its economy by 2060.”

Since that grand announcement, there have been many articles in state-run Chinese media singing the virtues of Communist China’s grand march to a green future. Here are a couple of agitprop headlines bleating out that narrative:

China Daily agitprop claimed that China is the number one publisher of net zero emission studies in the world: “China has a clear lead in the publication of research over the past two decades related to the world’s climate goal of reaching net-zero emissions, a recent report has found. … China produced about 400,000 related publications, followed by the United States with 280,000.”

But are Xi and the communists really, really serious about achieving carbon neutrality and net zero emissions, or is this just another of their head fakes? And are all of those Chinese studies worth anything in terms of concrete actions taken? Two definitions are in order to frame the answer to those questions:

Carbon neutral refers to a manufacturing, energy production, or energy use process “having or resulting in no net addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.” This is a euphemism created by green energy advocates associated with the unproven assumption and alleged “97% consensus among scientists” (debunked here) that man-generated carbon dioxide causes “global warming.”

Net zero emissions involves a given entity, e.g., country, industry, manufacturing facility, etc., having achieved “an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere.” This is another green euphemism premised on the unproven theories surrounding “anthropogenic global warming.”

Carbon neutral and net zero emissions are political tools that green energy advocates are using to reregulate the economy and create new revenue streams associated with the buying and selling of carbon credits as part of a grandiose carbon trading and exchange system that will be managed by “green governments” around the world. The concept is that “dirty industries” (i.e., those whose manufacturing byproducts include carbon dioxide and other designated “greenhouse gases”) will be heavily regulated and forced to buy carbon tax credits on the exchange from green industries that under-produce their government allotment of greenhouse gases in order to offset their government-defined “pollution.” Companies are financially incentivized (i.e., subsidized with taxpayer money) to reduce their emissions by below their carbon allowances. Over time, this would allow governments to tip the balance in favor of green industries.

China’s first significant foray into carbon trading began with the creation of the state-owned Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange (SEEE) in August 2008. As summarized here, the company “specializes in climate change mitigation and adaptation services including China Carbon Emission Reduction (CCER) trading, carbon financing, energy efficiency, climate technology transfer, and consultancy of low carbon development planning and strategies.” The company piloted voluntary and nonvoluntary emission trading schemes that evolved into emissions compliance market in 2014.

As a result of those pilots, the Chinese implemented a national emission trading scheme (ETS) in July 2021 as the key element of the National Carbon Market. According to Business for Social Responsibility, China’s national ETS will eventually “cover a total of eight sectors (power generation, petrochemical, chemical, building materials including cement, steel, non-ferrous metals, pulp and paper, and aviation).”

China’s National Carbon Market and ETS align with the plans of green energy advocates in Europe and the US, as manifested through the Paris Agreement, which commits signatories to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through direction actions. Carbon exchanges and national ETSs are envisioned as the governmental control mechanisms that will lead to a “new green future for mankind.”

But is this just window dressing that masks China’s real green objectives? The Gatestone Institute has suggested that China’s actual green goal is reducing US competitiveness while increasing Communist China’s competitive advantage and expanding the world’s dependency on Chinese manufacturing and production of green products. The Institute made these key points: (1) Chinese seriousness about reducing emissions is not manifested in their latest five-year plan, which contains no concrete goals or actions required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and (2) The Paris Accords give China (and India) a “free carbon ride” for the near-term while the country is in fact rapidly increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile, European countries and the US are required to achieve real emissions and reductions goals under the Paris Agreement, further burdening their economies through green regulations while China remains free to expand and pollute.

And pollute the communists are! A report from the Rhodium Group last May stated that China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) at 27% of the total in 2019, as depicted here:

Net Zero Emissions

[URL for above figure: https://rhg.com/research/chinas-emissions-surpass-developed-countries/ ]

China’s 2019 GHG emissions represented a 25% increase from 2009, which trend coincides with the 10-year evolution of China’s National Carbon Market and ETS described above. In short, the impact on emissions and the plan to achieve carbon neutrality of the Chinese ETS has been negligible. We now know what “net zero emissions with Chinese characteristics” really means.

Zero emissions with Chinese characteristics would appear to obfuscate the expansion of Chinese energy production, too. Communist China is the world’s largest carbon emitter and commissioned more coal-fired capacity in 2020 than the rest of the world retired: “China’s coal boom in 2020 more than offset the retirements in coal capacity in the rest of the world, leading to the first increase in global coal capacity development since 2015. … China’s coal boom accounted for 76 percent of the global 50.3 GW new coal capacity.”

Only Western greenies and politicians believe Communist Chinese propaganda that China will achieve “net zero emissions” by 2060.

Lastly, it is important to remember that Western green activists do not limit their advocacy to “stopping global warming.” Their interests include halting pollution of all kinds and protecting the environment in all respects. The Chinese green focus has been primarily on climate change because there is big money to be made in producing the green technology components that are needed by the rest of the world, including batteries, solar power panels, and electric vehicles. Their interests are in making money, not in “protecting the environment” (including “stopping man-made global warming”).

Perhaps this is the reason why the CCP and their state-run media never discuss the below environmental problems in China:

Toxic algae blooms. Over-development, including untreated fertilizer runoff, factory waste, and human sewage, has led to pollution of water sources and produced toxic algae blooms that make water undrinkable and fish and other seafood toxic.

Toxic water pollution. Wastewater plumes in river discharges into the South China Sea have been extensive. Greenpeace tested and detected the presence of a range of hazardous chemicals in Chinese coastal waters, including phthalates, antimony and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs).

Air pollution. Chinese wore masks long before the SARS-CoV-2 virus outbreak; they were worn because of horrible air quality in many major cities. Chinese air quality is adversely affected due to unprocessed industrial discharges, including mercury, sulfates, ozone, black carbon, and also Mongolian desert dust.

Soil pollution. Chinese lands are plagued by “industrial waste seeping from factories onto the soil, and agricultural activities such as the application of fertilizers and the use of polluted water for irrigation.” That pollution has led to local cancer epidemics in various industrial areas around the country (that go unreported in Chinese media). Think of a dozen Love Canals without the cleanup.

Plastic pollution. According to the UK Independent, over 200 million cubic meters of plastic waste was found floating off Chinese shores in 2018, primarily “in the delta regions of the Yangtze and Pearl rivers.” The article further states that Chinese is the world’s leading generator of plastic waste.

Conclusion. Xi Jinping and his stenographers in Chinese state-run media grandly advertise China’s goal of achieving “net zero emissions” by 2060. Chinese researchers are feverishly turning out zero emissions studies and white papers, but China continues to lead the world in building coal-fired energy plants while ignoring other challenging environmental pollution problems that are leading to the deaths of Chinese citizens and investing in green technology development and manufacturing for monetary gain. Words versus actions. Net zero emissions with Chinese characteristics.

The end.

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