Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to SMH Reporter Nick O’Malley, Trump’s victory in 2016 created a perception of “boom and bust” commitment to climate action. But Chinese leaders do not have to face elections, so China’s climate commitment to climate action is likely to improve “more rapidly and predictably” than the USA.
Power to change: Why the US and China must work together on the climate crisis
By Nick O’Malley
JULY 2, 2021
Months before the Paris summit began, the two nations shocked the world by announcing their own climate deal. China agreed to peak emissions in 2030; the US to reduce its emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent by 2025. Climate laggards would not be able to use the failure of these giant economies as cover for their own Paris targets.
But with Donald Trump’s victory, the US abandoned its efforts and the relationship between the two nations deteriorated.
This boom-and-bust cycle of American urgency and inaction has not inspired confidence in China, says Li.
Bernice Lee, research director for futures at the London-based foreign policy think tank Chatham House, notes that although President Xi Jinping does not confront the same pressures as democratic leaders, he is not immune from political gravity.
Climate Analytics data is used to build the Climate Action Tracker, which judges the progress nations are making towards the globally agreed aim of holding warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.
It makes for grim reading. Australian policies are judged as “insufficient”, China’s as “highly insufficient”. US efforts fall into the worst category, “critically insufficient”.
Hare explains this is a reflection of the Trump administration’s abandonment of the issue, and new rankings taking in analysis of the impacts of Biden-era policies will soon be published.
While America’s climate plan will be tested at the polls again in 2024, China’s leaders, for good or ill, will dictate the course for the next three decades.
In that light, says Li, there is some reason to believe Chinese climate policy may improve more rapidly and predictably than America’s.
The part I don’t get, is why reporters like Nick O’Malley fall time and again for the utter canard that totalitarian states could be better stewards of the environment than republics or democracies.
China is a polluted wasteland.
The reason of course is in totalitarian states, ordinary people have no democratic means to prevent their lives from being ruined by well connected industrialists. If the activity which pollutes the neighbourhood or wrecks lives is profitable for the people in charge, anyone who complains is more likely to be arrested than listened to.
I’m not saying that totalitarian states don’t listen at all – eventually problems get so bad the state has to act, or risk a violent uprising. But that problem action threshold is a lot higher in China than in democratic states.
Imagine if you lived in a nation like China. How desperate would things have to be, for you to risk incarceration and savage official bullying for yourself and your loved ones, by upsetting corrupt totalitarian leaders who are profiting from your misery?
Consider the arrest and harassment of courageous doctors who tried to warn the world about Covid. Or the case of China’s melamine adulteration baby formula scandal, in which an unknown number of babies died or suffered horribly because Chinese baby formula manufacturers added toxic chemicals to their watered down product to rig the quality test. Or that time China exported anti-freeze laced toothpaste to the USA, because sweet tasting anti-freeze is cheaper than aspartame. Or the Chinese toy manufacturers who use poisonous lead paint on children’s toys. Or that time China exported millions of fake medical Covid masks to the USA. Or all the Chinese companies feeding the US narcotics crisis by producing and exporting Fentanyl. Or China’s alleged widespread use of slave labour and genocidal mistreatment of minorities, to boost their profit margin.
China’s communist government has repeatedly demonstrated a total lack of scruples when it comes to making money. Their government only seems to take an interest in fixing problems long after the damage is done, when bad news threatens their grip on power, or their profit margins.
For every outrage we learn about, no doubt many lesser problems are allowed to fester and cause ongoing misery for ordinary Chinese people.
Given their track record of in my opinion utter disregard for the welfare of ordinary people, why would the Chinese government be especially caring, when it comes to climate change? Yet Western climate activists repeatedly somehow convince themselves that totalitarians would do a better job at fixing the world’s problems, than politicians elected by ordinary people who don’t share their sense of urgency.