Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to the Financial Times, the deteriorating relationship between the USA and China has triggered a collapse in renewable investment, a resurgence in coal, and has turned Greta Thunberg into a Chinese Nationalist hate figure.
Climate change: how China moved from leader to laggard
Beijing’s U-turn on renewables is triggering alarm ahead of UN meeting
Leslie Hook in Baoding
The smoggy city of Baoding is known for two things: donkey burgers, and solar panels. An industrial centre just south of Beijing — 45 minutes via high-speed rail — the city’s high-tech zone styles itself as “Power Valley” because it is home to so many solar manufacturers.
But for Vincent Yu, deputy general manager at Yingli Solar, one of the first renewables companies to set up in the city, business has been difficult lately. “These last two years, there has been a lot of pressure. The subsidies for solar projects have fallen,” Mr Yu says. New solar installations in China — running at 53 gigawatts in 2017 when demand peaked — will be about 40 per cent lower this year, he estimates.
The company is the highest profile casualty of a change in policy that is being felt across the renewable energy sector in a country once celebrated as the world’s clean energy champion. Chinese investment in clean energy is plummeting — down from $76bn during the first half of 2017, to $29bn during the first half of this year.
Mr Li says deteriorating relations between the US and China — along with the unrest in Hong Kong — have helped fuel a growing nationalist sentiment and a broader anger at the west.
One of the targets of this nationalist ire has been Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage activist who is revered as a climate hero in some parts of the world. “Many netizens see [Greta] as representing the general liberal western agenda,” says Mr Li. “There is this larger perspective that the west is ganging up against China.”
At the same time, coal appears to be again in the ascendant with Li Keqiang, China’s premier, last month identifying it as a priority area. China remains the world’s biggest producer. Many see this as part of a growing focus on energy security in Beijing, a result of Chinese leaders being spooked by deteriorating relations with the west. “Energy security anxiety is a blessing for the coal [sector] in China,” says Mr Tu.
Read more: https://www.ft.com/content/be1250c6-0c4d-11ea-b2d6-9bf4d1957a67
You can see where this is heading – when next week’s COP25 climate talks inevitably collapse, this time everyone will claim the failure is President Trump’s fault for upsetting China.
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