China and the Paris Accord
Despite being lauded by President Obama for signing the Paris U.N. climate change accord, China is still rapidly expanding greenhouse gas emissions.
President Obama and China's President Xi Jinping issued a "U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change" on March 31, 2016 stating that both nations were signing the Paris Accord and would take further "concrete steps" to "use public resources to finance and encourage the transition toward low carbon technologies as a priority." The joint statement on climate change was trumpeted as creating "an enduring legacy of the partnership."
President Obama's "concrete steps" for the U.S. to combat climate change included issuing an executive order "Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change," directing the Environmental Protection Agency to cut 32 percent of power plant carbon emissions by 2025, mandating higher vehicle mileage, substantially limiting oil and gas drilling on public lands, and requiring energy-efficient building codes.
The Heritage Foundation estimated that if the Paris Accord Obama signed were fully implemented, it would have achieved a 0.36-degree Fahrenheit reduction in global temperatures. But the economic costs of Obama's Paris commitments over the next 20 years would have included the loss of $2.5 trillion in GDP, 400,000 jobs, over $20,000 less income per family of four, and about 17 percent higher electricity prices.
The Paris Accord also commits so-called "advanced nations" to providing $100 billion in "Green Climate Fund" subsidies for reparations to developing countries to fund infrastructure improvements. With the U.S. share already set at about $22 billion, Obama's "Joint Presidential Statement" committed the U.S. to increasing climate change subsidies.
Despite already being the planet's largest contributor of greenhouse emissions at 22 percent, China was required by the Paris Accord to curtail emissions' growth only by 2030. China did commit to promoting a "global clean and low-carbon energy transition, especially towards sustainable, affordable, reliable and modern energy services."
To quantify China's actions since signing the Paris Accord, the GWP Foundation issued an analysis titled "China's Climate U-Turn."
According to the GWP analysis, China now has the world's largest number of renewable energy installations. But as a percentage of China's total electric power production, wind accounts for 2.7 percent, and solar accounts for just 0.5 percent. Given the higher costs of maintaining interruptible power, the Chinese authorities curtailed about 50 percent of wind unit potential production. Low utilization rates are also blamed on poor wind farm siting, failing to build power grid connections, and installing inefficient wind turbines.
China's air pollution levels did decline last year due to a reduction in electric power produced from coal. But greenhouse gas emissions grew due to a 15-percent increase in the use of natural gas. As a result, China's annual pollution levels remained 72 percent higher than World Health Organization guidelines.
Rather than planning for a post-carbon future, the International Energy Agency reported that China has been the world's largest oil-importer since 2013. China has signed new oil supply agreements with Oman, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Angola, Iraq, the UAE, Kuwait, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Congo, South Sudan, Brazil, Venezuela, and Canada. China is set to be the world's largest LNG-importer in two years and is building natural gas import pipelines from Russia, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Turkmenistan.
To keep its domestic coal miners employed, China increased its consumption of coal last year for the first time since 2013. As part of its "Belt and Road" initiative, China has plans to build 700 coal-fired electric plants across the Eurasian plain.
One of Donald Trump's first actions after being inaugurated as president of the United States was issuing an executive order withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Accord.
China's state news agency Xinhua led media outlets around the world in calling the Trump's move a "huge setback" in the global battle against climate change. The official China news source deemed the move a U.S. retreat from the "common aspiration of mankind for a low-carbon future."