For the past decades, China’s economic growth has been fueling an explosion of greenhouse gases emissions. To the World Bank, the People’s Republic saw its GDP increase by a massive average of nine percent for 30 years. By becoming the factory of the world – with the impetus and complicity of wealthy Western business owners who saw all the cheap labor – China became the world’s largest greenhouse gases emitter, surpassing the United States.
Lately, a different story has emerged from China, as its factories started producing enormous amounts of solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars and other staples of the global energy transition. This is why Carbon Brief stated that “China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are set to fall in 2024 and could be facing structural decline, due to record growth in the installation of new low-carbon energy sources.”
Below is this absolutely inspiring graph that has been republished around the Internet lately (it doesn’t take a maths genius to see where the emissions are trending ) :
Please refer to the whole long post to gain massive insight as to how this is even possible and what it could mean for the entire world.
For years now, the country has been cleaning up its heavy industries to bring better air quality to Beijing and other cities as local populations became increasingly discontent and concerned. Leaving coal in the ground (or at least stop digging the stuff so damn fast) and switching to a mix of solar and wind is paramount. And the Chinese government knows it.
The “war on pollution” has wielded some impressive results but it’s not over. A lot still needs to be done and neighoring India would be very well inspired to follow suit given how New Delhi is struggling with horrible air quality.
Aside from electricity generation, transportation is a massive greenhouse gases emitter. So, if for decades, Maoist and Communist China was well known for its bikes as this was the transportation mean for most if not all workers. But consumerism brought cars, and with them, another massive source of pollution. Perpetual traffic jams are a thing in large cities as 300 million people succombed to “car culture” (at least, 300 milion cars were sold in the country…)
Fortunately, what took place in Europe is also happening in China as people are switching back to bikes as the pandemic and bike sharing companies spurred the rebirth of cycling. Local authorities have started investing in infrastructure to fight congestion as well.
I mentioned that earlier, but the Middle Kingdom is also leading the world on electric buses. And it sure is trying to keep on leading as no less than 138,000 electric buses were sold in China in 2022. This massive surge took place as interesting subsidies were put in place. To the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), In 2021, China had more than 90% of the world’s electric buses and trucks.
While European and American automakers mostly sold for the past decade or so Stupidly Useless Vehicles / Socially Unacceptable Vehicles, China is betting on “small” (understand non-SUV) affordable electric cars. And this might be another whole industry that goes East. With electric cars selling in China for less than 5,000 euros, European carmakers from Spain to Germany have reasons to be concerned.
To conclude, despite all these very encouraging signs, one nees to remember that structural and systemic changes are also needed. China, like other countries around the world needs to switch from a paradigm based on economic growth to another one based on human and social well-being and on regenerating Nature. This is an entire story all together. Let’s hope we’ll be able to tell it.
Image credits : Li Yang on Unsplash.