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China Goes Climate Cool

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Read this article in Spanish. Lea este artículo en español


Rooftop solar hot water tanks in the Yunnan capital city of Kunming. Photo by Even Rogers Pay
Rooftop solar hot water tanks in the Yunnan capital city of Kunming. China is poised to overtake Europe, Japan, and North America in the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines, and it already dominates the markets for solar hot water and small hydropower. Photo by Even Rogers Pay

Last summer, Chinese President Hu Jintao toured the country in short sleeves to show that his countrymen could turn their air conditioners down. In China, conservation is “in.”

Fashions do change. Global warming denial is out of vogue. Unfortunately, though, the climate change do-nothing set is sporting a new line: “Why should we bother fighting climate change when China’s emissions are increasing?”

It’s true that China’s galloping economy means that the country’s total emissions are on the rise—they are now the world’s number-one emitter. But China has also unveiled aggressive emissions reduction policies. Indeed, it may be the United States that will need to play catch-up with China, not the other way around.

China boasts one of the most fuel-efficient vehicle fleets in the world, with estimated averages of 37 miles per gallon already, in 2008. The U.S. will reach 35 mpg—by 2020.

China pumped $10 billion into clean energy in 2007 (twice the amount invested by the U.S. in 2006) and is on track to meet and exceed targets to obtain 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020, and 30 percent by 2050.

Already leading in solar hot water and small hydropower technology, China will likely become the world leader in solar and wind power manufacturing in the next three years. Unless the United States gets busy and starts setting higher standards for a climate friendly economy, the world may look to China as the global trend setter.

Anna Fahey wrote this sidebar as part of Stop Global Warming Cold, the Spring 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Anna is communications strategist at Sightline Institute. Photo of Anna Fahey
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