China's Environmental Ambivalence: Green Leader or Climate Blackmailer?
China has recently been sending out mixed messages regarding its stance on climate change. On the one hand, China seems to be going green and has committed itself to green policies, as expressed by The Diplomat:
China has committed to spending 2 trillion yuan ($313 billion) on developing green energy and reducing carbon emissions over the next five years, with a view to cutting per-unit GDP energy consumption by 16 percent compared with 2010.
The country has also announced a number of practical steps aimed at making this a reality, including the announcement this month that it will phase out power-draining light bulbs over the next five years.
According to AP, China plans to “ban imports and sales of 100-watt-and-higher incandescent bulbs from October 1, 2012, in an attempt to save energy and curb climate change.”
Green sentiment is also echoed in a five-minute apology issued to students at a Beijing photo exhibition by Pan Yue of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. From China Daily:
“We invited you to see what we are doing for the environment every time we held the show because we feel ashamed of what we have done and we are trying our best to improve the environment,” Pan said to the visiting primary school students.
Pan also said environmental deterioration has not been curbed, the report said, and the amount of pollutant emissions is far more than the environment can handle.
China has threatened to release huge amounts of the potent greenhouse gas HFC-23 if the international community proceeds with plans to ban carbon credits generated by destroying the gas.
HFC-23 is a by-product of the refrigerant gas HCFC-22 which has a much greater warming effect than carbon dioxide and stays in the atmosphere for up to 200 years.
The EU moved to exclude HFC-generated credits from its emissions trading scheme from 2013 amid fears that developers were deliberately manufacturing and then destroying the gases to generate credits that can be sold for 70 times the actual cost of destroying HFC-23.
The Guardian has more on the story:
“Attempting to force countries into squandering billions on fake offsets that actually increase production of greenhouse gases is extortion,” said Samuel LaBudde, senior atmospheric campaigner with the. Environmental Investigation Agency. “China is not the victim here, and a world order responsive to climate change cannot be predicated on unrepentant greed.” The NGO accuses China of blocking international efforts to find alternative means of dealing with these potent industrial emissions, including direct payments to factories and technological and financial support for other developing nations to dispose of the gases.