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Will China save the planet?

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  • Will China save the planet?
    The Great Wall, China

About the entity

NRDC
NRDC works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.
Global Omnium
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China’s aggressive moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand clean energy could help protect the world from climate catastrophe, but only if it further escalates its efforts. That’s the conclusion of a new book about China’s role in the global race to slow, stop and reverse dangerous climate change.

China pumps more greenhouse gas pollution into the skies than any other nation, but it also outpaces the world in developing wind and solar power, putting electric vehicles on the road and establishing a global system of green finance.

The book, “Will China Save the Planet?” by Barbara Finamore, senior attorney and founder of the China Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, follows the recent release of the 4th National Climate Assessment. The product of 13 U.S. government agencies, the stark report confirmed the need for dramatic cuts in fossil fuel pollution, underscoring how out of touch President Trump is by backing away from addressing climate change and ceaselessly promoting fossil fuels.  

China may step into the void, Finamore’s book says, helping the world avoid environmental chaos, but success won’t be easy. China pumps more greenhouse gas pollution into the skies than any other nation, but it also outpaces the world in developing wind and solar power, putting electric vehicles on the road and establishing a global system of green finance.

“China has undergone breakneck development, become the largest carbon emitting country and confronted a surge in choking air pollution,” Finamore said. “At the same time, China has become an important participant and leader in the global effort to curb climate impacts. Still, it faces substantial challenges in decarbonizing its economy and transitioning to clean energy.

“China also clearly knows that tackling climate change can be a big money maker that also cleans up unhealthy air, and there remains ample room for many other countries to profit and benefit from the clean energy revolution that China is capitalizing on,” Finamore added. “Its massive investments have prompted a dramatic downward spiral in the cost of renewable energy and electric vehicles that is reverberating around the world, with major benefits for the climate.”

Finamore’s book seeks to shed light on crucial questions and the implications they have for the U.S. and the world, including: How did it evolve from a climate change resister to a forceful advocate of global climate governance? Can it overcome obstacles hindering its decarbonization efforts? As it greens its own economy, will China outsource its carbon emissions, through fossil fuel development, to other countries? What’s driving the world’s clean energy revolution what role can other countries play?

Finamore, a senior attorney and Asia Senior Strategic Director at NRDC, has focused on China for a quarter century, and was in the room, in 1991, when China first stepped onto the international climate stage. She founded NRDC’s China Program in 1996, the first clean energy-focused initiative launched by an international NGO.