It’s official. China is now the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases.
Having spent much of this spring reporting in China, I’d like to second just about everything David said yesterday on the topic. But I have one ginormous point to add.
It’s not just money that’s needed. Yes, it’d be a good thing if Hill folks stopped bashing technology-exchange programs as lending an “unfair competitive advantage.” And yes, let’s stop painting China as the international bad guy. It ain’t helpful, especially when the Chinese can rightly point out that Americans and Europeans are still, per capita, the world’s energy hogs.
But the really troubling thing is that, even when Beijing is trying to do the right thing — and they have some surprisingly progressive energy targets on the books — the government often can’t enforce its own edicts. Wonks call this a “rule of law” problem. By Beijing’s own estimates, one-fifth of power plants operate illegally, dodging the government’s own environmental regulations and best intentions.
I don’t mean to sound hopeless. I’m actually hopeful about some of the broader changes underway in China that might make solutions more workable. (Sorry to be elliptical; I write about this in an upcoming Washington Monthly article, but, jiminycrickets, I don’t have an online link yet.)
In the meantime, yep, the West should take some responsibility for helping China, India, and Africa avoid the worst of the worst on global warming. If not for their sake, then for ours.