February 22, 2024

World Climate Conference – China and US ignore the elephant in the room

It’s not a miracle. For example, the United States is now the world’s largest oil producer, while at the same time the largest oil consumer. China’s giant empire, which emits nearly a third of all greenhouse gases worldwide, has relied on climate-damaging coal for decades and wants to become climate-neutral by 2060.

US Vice President: Inactivity Affects Billions

Harris first praised his administration’s climate policy, then warned that humanity has reached a critical juncture as the climate crisis worsens. “Our collective actions — or worse, our inaction — will affect billions of people for decades to come.” Harris agreed to travel to Dubai at short notice after his boss, US President Joe Biden, was criticized for his absence this year.

Your own government is indeed called to action: After China, the United States emits the most climate-damaging greenhouse gases in the world, particularly CO2 and methane. Also: At 14 tonnes, per capita CO2 emissions are twice as high as China’s. The US government’s annual climate report says greenhouse gas emissions are falling, but not enough to meet national and international climate commitments and goals. The bar is set relatively high: the US wants to generate its electricity without carbon dioxide emissions by 2035 and reduce its emissions to net zero by 2050.

To top it all off: On Saturday, US Climate Representative John Kerry announced that the US would join a coalition of states to phase out coal. This is absolutely necessary to achieve the goal agreed in Paris in 2015 of limiting global warming to, if possible, 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times. The final date will be 2035 – which experts say is not long enough.

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Climate crisis in real time – also in North America

The climate crisis is now unfolding in real time in the United States: In recent years, it has been hit by repeated extreme weather events — record heat, droughts, violent tropical storms, torrential rains, and devastating wildfires. Cities like New York and Washington were engulfed in thick orange plumes of smoke from wildfires in Canada over the summer.

And China? In his speech, Vice Premier Ding Xuxiang first elaborated that China is a pioneer in the energy transition. “We are the largest manufacturer and marketer of electric cars in the world,” he said. Half of the world’s electric cars are in China. Only half of energy now comes from fossil sources. 50 percent of the world’s wind turbines come from China and 80 percent from solar systems.

In fact, there have been many positive developments recently. In mid-November, an analysis by the Helsinki-based Center for Energy Research and Clean Air (CREA) caused a stir. China’s greenhouse gas emissions could fall “structurally” early next year, according to calculations. Emissions will continue to increase in 2023. At the same time, however, wind and solar energy have expanded at an unprecedented pace.

Officially, China’s giant empire, which operates half of the world’s coal-fired power plants, wants to gradually reduce its emissions from 2030 – which experts say is incompatible with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. If the boom in renewable energies continues, things will move much faster.

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According to CREA, the biggest growth has been in solar energy, where the installed capacity by 2023 is about 210 GW. In total, China has built twice as much solar energy capacity as the U.S. in a year, writes CREA analyst Larry Milevirta.

New approaches inspire confidence

A major success in the run-up to COP28 is that after a high-level meeting in the US, Washington and Beijing now want to reunite on climate protection. Both governments recently backed the G20’s commitment to triple renewable energy by 2030 over 2020. However, the superpowers had already agreed to cooperate with much fanfare in Glasgow in 2021, but this was put on hold again given the strained relations.