Major Concerns of Climate Change in China


China is one of the critical countries in the world, which are considered to significantly contribute to the issue of climate change. Research indicates that China produces over 6.000 megatons of carbon dioxide every year. The increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is associated with increase in global warming, which perpetrates the climate change. To this end, China is regarded as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases across the globe based on absolute terms, contributing to about 22 percent of the total amount of emissions (Held, Nag & Roger, 2011). At the moment, the emissions of the greenhouse gases by China have exceeded the global per capita average, following the growth in the emissions by over 200 percent from 1990 to 2008. The concern of increased greenhouse gases emissions in China is largely associated with the countries appetite for economic growth. The historical growth of the Chinese economy has been tremendously effected through the use of fossil fuels as a major source of energy in industries. Despite the increased desire from the global community to mitigate the impacts of climate change, there is fear that the emission of greenhouse gases in the country may rise by between 55 and 75 by 2025 (Held, Nag & Roger, 2011). Therefore, it is important to discuss the different concerns presented by China regarding the issue of climate change that is tremendously perpetrated by increase in emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Overview of the Issue of Climate Change in China

The Chinese government has established policies that are aimed at adopting effective governance of climate change, improved domestic capacity of effectively governing the energy use and emissions, as well as supporting the commitments that positively impact decline in future international emissions. China acknowledges the need to lower the emission of greenhouse gases as well as mitigating the impacts of climate change, which is a critical solution towards obtaining a healthier international environment (Lipin, 2016). As a matter of fact, numerous multinational negotiations have been advanced so as to develop a global climate regime that governs the efforts of reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Being among the world’s largest polluters, China has received increase attention from the global community. The country, which has the highest population of over 1.3 billion, has been steadfastly reluctant to comply to the suggestions by international organizations such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (Held, Nag & Roger, 2011). These organizations have been engaged in pushing for adoption of binding commitments to countries towards reduction of the greenhouse gases.

China is largely motivated by a mix of economic, political, and equity-based attributes, which makes the country’s policy makers to consistently make arguments that the countries that have already experienced superior levels of industrialization such as United States should be in the forefront of mitigating the impacts of climate change (Lipin, 2016). China has been constantly accused of compromising the global efforts of mitigating climate change. China’s effect on greenhouse gas emissions have been found to grow significantly, which has perpetrated increase in the growth of concerns regarding the wellbeing of the energy security, environment, as well as its vulnerability to the climate change (Lipin, 2016).

Following the increased prominence of the concerns from the domestic and international community towards China’s level of greenhouse gases emissions, the Chinese government has undertaken numerous domestic efforts that seek to alleviate the condition of climate change in the country. The policymakers in the country have recognized the need for improved governance in numerous critical sectors that are associated with climate change, particularly the energy sector in the country. To a large extent, China has been involved in substantial, if not complete, institutional efforts of reformation of the energy sector. The country has witnessed a significant growth in the capacity of different domestic governance institutions, that have made remarkable strides towards enhancement of the country’s ability to develop several ambitious programs and policies that seek to increase the efficiency of energy and its conservation. Efforts by the Chinese government have also been advanced so as to encourage increased utilization of renewable sources of energy and reduction of greenhouse gases emission.

Over the last few years, China seems to have adjusted its initial position regarding different critical issues that have been developed in the UNFCCC negotiations. The adjustment has largely focused on transfer of technology and finance, mechanisms related to flexibility, as well as the nature of the commitments provided by the United Nations (UN) body (Held, Nag & Roger, 2011). In addition, in response to the constant challenged in the negotiations put forward by the UNFCCC, there is increased number of governmental units in China, such as non-governmental organizations, individual firms, private actors, and municipal governments, which are actively participating in different voluntary transnational governance arrangements, which attempt to effectively put measures that mitigate the negative impacts of climate change without the need for a multilateral agreement.

Concerns of the Chinese Government

As noted earlier, the issue of climate change in China has been significantly influenced by numerous critical considerations. Most of the business and government authorities in China have been largely motivated by economic and political aspects. The country is tremendously concerned with the maintenance of the position of the Chinese society. As a consequence, the Chinese policymakers are greatly determined to ensure that the living standards of the citizens are significantly improved (Held, Nag & Roger, 2011). Another concern related to the energy security in the country, which includes the access to reliable, affordable, and adequate energy supplies, as well as the general efficiency of the Chinese economy.

In addition, the businesses, mass public, and policymakers have an increased concern regarding the vulnerability of their country to negative impacts of climate change, which may have adverse effects on the Chinese society and economy. China is also motivated by international perspectives, particularly the concerns related to equity, sovereignty, as well as the international image of the country among both developing and developed countries (Yu et al., 2013). All of the mentioned concerns push the policies in the country in different directions. However, the policies have contributed to significant changes in governance, policies, and policymaking in the country in numerous areas.

Economic and Environmental Concerns

After 1980, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of China has experienced a growth of over 1110 percent when measured based on the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms, which has made China overtake Japan as the second largest economy across the globe. Due to the slow growth in population, China’s GDP per capita has witnessed an increase by about 800 percent (Yu et al., 2013). In addition, the number of Chinese people living in extreme poverty has experienced a decline by of about 500 million people. Through preventing any major distortion to the impressive economic trends, the Chinese government is determined to realize even more economic success, as the policymakers have a strong belief that the country can potentially become the major engine that drives the global economy in the coming decades (Yu et al., 2013).

However, despite the fact the tremendous growth in the economy of China has perpetrated to many material benefits to its citizens, such success has been associated with significant cost to the environment. The high population has led to increased demand for land, energy, and water, while there has been considerable depletion of the forests in the country, which has resulted in flooding and desertification (Yu et al., 2013). Moreover, the country has witnessed a dramatic increase in water and air pollution due to the increased use of fossil fuels thus increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In China, the economic costs related to resource depletion and environmental degradation have been estimated to be between 8 and 12 percent of the country’s GDP (Wu et al., 2018). In addition, the country’s policymakers are concerned about the effects of resource depletion and environmental depletion on the public health, and thus there is increased concern about the environmental threats associated with emission of greenhouse gases. Although the environmental threats still remain subordinate to the country’s economic development, the sustainable use of resources and protection of the environment have slowly been integrated in the list of priorities by the Chinese government.

Energy Concerns

The rapid economic growth of China after 1980 has heavily depended on energy. The expansion of the country’s economy has led to increase in use of energy by over 200 percent. Currently, China is the second largest consumer and producer of energy across the globe, with only United States ahead. The manufacturing industry in China, which primarily survives on energy use contributes to the major exports that greatly composes the country’s GDP. This accounts for about 60 percent of the country’s total consumption of energy (Wu et al., 2018). The close tradeoff between the country’s economic development and increase use of energy implies that the energy policy is a primary concern for the Chinese government.

Within the Chinese boarders, there are about 120 billion tons of coal reserved, which is estimated to be about 15 percent of the total coal in the world (Wu et al., 2018). As a result, the source of industrial energy is China is tremendously skewed towards use of coal, which remains the fuel that is most emissions-intensive. As a matter of fact, China depends of coal for as high as 68 percent of the energy requirements, which makes the country one of the most intensive consumer of carbon dioxide in the entire world (Yu et al., 2013). With increased use of energy, the annual consumption of coal in the country has more than doubled, reaching about 2.7 billion tons in 2008 from 1.1 billion in 1990 (Wu et al., 2018). Apart from coal as a source of energy, China has heavily utilized oil in numerous industrial functions. Additionally, oil has been used in the motor vehicles in China, which are estimated to be over 180 million. Wu et al. (2018) argues that oil represents the second largest component of energy mix in China, amounting to about 19 percent of the total amount of energy consumed in the country. The natural gas is another important source of energy in China, and accounts for about 3,77 percent of the total energy used. The share of natural gas in China’s energy mix is experiencing significant expansion (Wu et al., 2018).

International Policy Concerns

A high number of the international concerns that influence the foreign policy in China as largely associated with the longstanding historically or politically-rooted factors and normative values, which affect the behavior of the country in numerous issue areas. The major international concerns that have been found through research to relate to China’s foreign policy include image, equity, and sovereignty (Engels, 2018). These concerns have significantly contributed to shaping the country’s policies on nuclear non-proliferation, finance, trade, international institutions, as well as climate change from a broader perspective.

The policymakers in China have made clear expressions regarding their concern of preserving their sovereignty as a country. The aspect of sovereignty has been deeply rooted in the modern history of China, and is significantly defined based on territorial integrity, domestic, as well as foreign autonomy of policymaking, particular the way of maintaining the hegemony of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and the privileged position in the society of China (Bjørkum, 2005). In addition, China expresses the concerns relating to equity within the international circle, which makes the country argue in favor of differentiation of the responsibilities among the developing and developed nations with regards to recognition of their substantial varying contributions towards climate change and verification of the capabilities of the reduction of the emissions (Bjørkum, 2005).

From a historical perspective, Chinese negotiators have constantly asserted that their country has minimally contributed to climate change. Although China’s annual emissions measured on absolute terms are highest across the globe, the country remains one of the minor emitters based on per capital terms, which ranks the country 67th globally. Developed countries, such as United States are associated with emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases compared to their population sizes. For instance, on average, a Chinese citizen contributes only 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, compared to an average European and an average North American who produce 8.7 tons and 19 tons of carbon dioxide respectively (Bjørkum, 2005).

Chinese negotiators have constantly argued that more than 30 percent of the emissions perpetrated by their country is associated with production of goods that are exported to such developed countries as United States. There is also an argument that most of the industrial processes that are environmentally harmful in China are outsourced to the country. For this reason, the equity basis demand from China indicates that there is no clarity regarding why China should have an obligation of reducing its emissions (Wiener, 2007). For this reason, because the already developed countries contributed to large amounts of emissions when they were undergoing industrialization, Chinese policymakers are of the opinion that China should be granted equal right so that it can engage in emission production in pursuit of economic growth and development.

The other concern to China relates to its image among policymakers and publics from foreign nations. There is increased desire in China that the country is not perceived as a threat to effective governance of transnational issues and stable international order (Bjørkum, 2005). As a result, the Chinese leaders are determined to evade any foreign entanglements that may compromise the capability of the country towards continued improvement of the living standards of its citizens. Therefore, China greatly believes that it will remain to be a responsible upholder of multilateralism and a cooperative partner. The country has taken bold steps towards reassuring the foreign community that it is committed in maintaining its “peaceful rise” policy through its numerous collaboration with numerous international institutions (Engels, 2018). To this end, the country’s adherence to different environmental agreements is a good indication of the serous commitments made by the country towards alleviation of climate change as a global epidemic.


China’s position in international negotiations on climate change among the foreign policymakers and publics has been a point of focus in the recent past. intergovernmental governance has greatly contributed to development of various dimensions of climate change governance. From the concerns presented in this paper, it is clear that China has made significant strides towards realization of a better global environment through its involvement in international agreements and negotiations that seek to alleviate the current state of climate change perpetrated by resource depletion and environmental degradation. Although some foreign policymakers and publics have claimed that China is reluctant to join the rest of the world in reducing emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, it is clear that the country has taken significant measures against climate change, because the country acknowledges that negative impact of climate change will affect the Chinese society, just like the global society (Wiener, 2007). Notably, the country has been wary about maintaining its economic position and promotion of the living standards of its citizens, and has thus taken environmental safety measures that do not jeopardize the economic and social security of its citizens.

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