has been heavily criticized for its massive energy consumption and colossal volume of carbon emissions, the inputs and outputs of its rapid growth. Recently, however, China China has made impressive strides in green energy development and pollution reduction – even surpassing the as the leader in clean energy investment for the first time in 2009. This has ironically resulted in a backlash of US sentiments against United States ’s ‘unfair’ trade dominance in the green energy sector. China
Through the end of 2009,
China—the largest industrializing nation— was castigated by the United Nations and in particular the for being the world’s leading carbon emitter. Indeed, China consumed over three billion tons of coal in 2008 and 2009, more than triple the amount used by the United States, and total energy consumption in China doubled in less than a decade this century. And at the United States Copenhagen climate change conference last December, took much of the blame for the breakdown in talks. However, with China taking effective action to capitalize on other sources of energy, global attention has shifted from the damage it has caused to the immense progress it is making in the arena. China
US lawmakers and trade unions alike have criticized
’s moves in the green energy industry, saying that it employs “predatory trade practices…to give its manufacturers an unfair advantage in the green technology revolution.” In addition to a letter from 180 congressmen, the USTR also received a 5,800-page petition from the United Steelworkers union. This document accuses China of using billions of dollars in subsidies, performance requirements, preferential practices and protectionist and predatory activities to dominate the solar and wind industries and other clean-energy sectors. The USTR has until October 24th to decide whether to accept the petition, which could mean a WTO-level dispute if accepted. China China flatly rejected the complaint, stating that such comments were hypocritical when is under pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the litany of new trade-related complaints the China US has generated about , the old criticisms remain in place. At the ongoing climate change conference, both countries again disagreed over the issue of whether developed or developing countries should bear more responsibility for carbon emission reductions, and the possible establishment of a mechanism to verify such reductions. All of these developments reflect the mounting tension between China China and the United States over ’s new green energy policy. China
What insights can we draw from this state of affairs? First, the
should perhaps take the time to think about long term considerations before pressing other countries to take up any course of action. As seen from this example, United States US criticism of China’s energy consumption caused it to turn towards alternative sources of energy, yet that again fueled the ire of the . Should the United States US decide to pursue its complaints against China’s green energy developments, it could result in severe bilateral conflict with . Worse still, it could affect the green initiative on a global scale by making other countries question how seriously they should commit towards environmental responsibility given the China US reaction to ’s efforts. Next, even if even if it was a mistake for the US to point fingers a little too early, this example still highlights the ease with which noble causes like climate change can be used as a screen behind which unfair trade or protectionism lurks. We should not just be aware of this possibility, but also begin to think about how such developments can be mitigated. Lastly, the spat between China and the United States reminds us that the critical issues of global warming and climate change really require genuine global cooperation, not the pushing of responsibility or a race for individual limelight. If only each country could focus on doing what is best for the earth, instead of what it is best for its interest groups, we would be able to see a far greener world. China
Image courtesy of http://venturebeat.com/2009/12/28/china-makes-nice-after-copenhagen-passes-green-energy-law/.