How China fits into global climate change

How China fits into global climate change

Want to tackle climate change? If so you'll have to reach out to China, which is currently responsible for over a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. Beijing will certainly take your call, as climate is a huge priority for President Xi Jinping.

Xi has promised that China will go "net zero" — meaning its carbon emissions will be offset by equal amounts of either natural or tech-driven carbon capture — by 2060. Is a decade later than most of the top 10 polluting countries fast enough for the rest of the world? It is for the Chinese, who want to help but have their own ideas about how.


The world's smokestack. Burning fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow has been essential for China's economy, now the world's second-largest, to have grown around 10 percent annually for most of the past thirty years. The tradeoff for that growth is massive pollution, which continues today and is the main reason China is not on track to meet its emissions reduction targets in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.

When carbon emissions from China's coal plants and smoke-belching factories get stuck in the atmosphere, they contribute to the global warming that leads to stronger monsoon floods in Bangladesh, longer droughts in sub-Saharan Africa, and more frequent cyclones in the Gulf of Mexico.

It's not that China doesn't care about the problems it causes other countries. But it's only fair, the Chinese argue, that we get the same shot at growing our economy through fossil fuels that industrialized Western countries got when they started polluting the planet way before we started to.

Climate is a big deal inside China. Once-arable lands in the interior are now barren, Beijing has long experienced poor air quality and increasingly frequent sand storms, and rising sea levels threaten major coastal cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai. No matter how fast the Chinese want to get rich, they are no longer willing to do so at the expense of their environment.

So, what is China doing about all this? First, China is embracing renewables at a scale the proponents of the Green New Deal in the US would balk at. In 2020, China accounted for more than half of the world's added electrical capacity from renewables. Second, the Chinese are betting on modern nuclear plants to become a more reliable and clean(ish) alternative in the country's energy mix.

At the same time, though, China has not only not abandoned coal, but is rather doubling down on new coal-fired plants. Xi, though, has an ace up his sleeve: carbon capture and storage technology, which traps emissions before they are released into the air and keeps them stored underground.

If widely adopted by heavy industry, it is estimated that carbon capture could cut China's emissions by at least 15 percent in 2060. What's more, emissions could be slashed by an additional 20 percent if the stored carbon is transformed into clean hydrogen, which Beijing expects to power nine out of 10 vehicles — including aircraft — to meet its net-zero target.

Beijing is also making a global play for green tech. The so-called "factory of the world" is reinventing itself to cash in on climate. China — which is increasingly looking to tech to solve all its problems — has already cornered the global market on affordable solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. The next step is to make carbon capture and clean hydrogen accessible and cheap for the rest of the world.

Dominating the global market for green tech is a win-win for Beijing: Chinese companies would benefit tremendously, and China itself would take credit for doing more than its fair share to save the planet.

But the Chinese don't want to do it all alone. A major sticking point in current US-China climate negotiations is that Beijing is demanding that America and its allies pitch in more cash for developing countries to wean themselves of fossil fuels. The Chinese complain that rich nations which demand net zero targets for all gobble up most of the available budget to help everyone go green.

China wants to open the floodgates of climate finance to increase global demand for Chinese green tech. Will US tech firms step up their game to compete with them? Earth will surely benefit from that.

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Even with innovations in fintech and digital payments, roadblocks related to basic infrastructure like electricity and internet connectivity still prevent many migrant workers from being able to transfer money to their families back home with a truly digital end-to-end flow. While more workers can send money digitally today, the majority of people still receive funds in cash. Read more about why public-private partnerships are key to advancing the future of global money movement and why it matters from experts at the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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How will artificial intelligence change the world and especially the job market by 2041? AI scientist Kai-fu Lee just wrote a book about precisely that, and he predicts it'll shake up almost every major industry. AI, he explains, will be most disruptive to many so-called "routine" occupations, but the damage may be reduced by shifting "empathetic" workers to jobs that require human empathy. Watch his interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

The Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson believes in tech firms doing business in China because connecting with people there is a huge social good for the world. But in demanding LinkedIn de-platform certain people, he says, the Chinese government crossed a line, and "you can't justify that."

Watch Ian Bremmer's interview with Nicholas Thompson in an upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

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35.4: The US has overtaken China as the country with the largest share of the world's Bitcoin mining networks, now accounting for 35.4 of the global mining presence. This comes after the Chinese government banned domestic cryptocurrency mining operations to promote its own digital yuan that would track every single transaction.

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