China and India Laser Talk

Question:  Does it matter what we do if China and India keep burning fossil fuels?

Answer:  It matters a lot. China, the U.S., and India together emit half of the world’s greenhouse gases, but the U.S. emits the most per person by far. [1] Prior objections that China and India were being excluded from commitments to reduce emissions are no longer valid, since they have both signed the Paris Agreement. Both countries are also taking action to address climate change. China has launched a carbon trading plan in their power sector, [2] and Indian companies are adopting internal carbon pricing in anticipation of their government’s aggressive renewable energy targets. [3] Their motivation is largely to curtail very severe air pollution, [4] but they also recognize that they are seriously vulnerable to the effects of climate change. [5,6]

This is a big challenge for countries where hundreds of millions don’t yet even have electricity, but China seeks to establish itself as a world leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency. [7] They’re already the world’s largest clean energy investor with $103 billion in 2015 – a third of all global renewable investment – with the U.S. a distant second at $44 billion. [8] Meanwhile, India has undertaken a ‘national mission’ to deploy solar energy in cities and villages across the country — committing already to 175 gigawatts by 2022. [9] That’s equal to about 200 coal plants!

Some in the U.S. still question whether China and India will follow through on those commitments, but that cannot be an excuse for our own inaction. The U.S. must commit the necessary resources and policy reforms to restore our leadership in tackling big problems like climate change.

  1. “Climate Change.” Global Footprint Network (accessed 29 Apr 2018).
  2. Timperley, J. “Q&A: How will China’s new carbon trading scheme work?” Carbon Brief (29 Jan 2018).
  3. Gajjar, C. “4 Ways Companies Can Price Carbon: Lessons from India.” World Resources Institute (4 Apr 2018).
  4. Nandi, J. “India, China account for over half of global deaths due to air pollution.” The Economic Times (19 Apr 2018).
  5. Li, M. “Climate change to adversely impact grain production in China by 2030.” Int’l Food Policy Res. Inst. (13 Feb 2018).
  6. “Why India is most at risk from climate change.” World Economic Forum (21 Mar 2018).
  7. Timperley, J. “China leading on world’s clean energy investment, says report.” Carbon Brief (9 Jan 2018).
  8. Buckley, T. and S. Nicholas. “China’s Global Renewable Energy Expansion.” Institute for Energy Economic and Financial Analysis (Jan 2017).
  9. Mahapatra, S. “India Likely To Surpass 175 Gigawatts Of Renewable Energy Target By 2022, Says Minister.” CleanTechnica (27 Nov 2017).

This page was updated on 05/31/18 08:30 CDT.

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