Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Who can save the world from being trampled by Trump?

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-02-03
Kevin Rafferty says the US president’s apocalyptic policies pose a grave risk, not only for the future of America as a nation, but the fragile planet itself
Commentators and pundits, American and foreign, have sadly misunderstood US President Donald Trump. They expected him to calm down and become presidential, at least when he became the unlikely ­Republican candidate, or when he beat Hillary Clinton – or, at the very least, when he went through the solemn pomp and panoply of the inauguration and he took possession of the Oval Office.

It is now clear that Trump must be taken both literally and seriously, however outrageous his demands, however personal, dark and unrealistic his world view. He will not let it stand in his way that he was the choice of only 27 per cent of eligible voters or that he lost to Clinton by 2.8 popular million votes.

He believes that if he promised or threatened it on the campaign trail, victory gives him the mandate to do it. And he has set to work like a Force 13 hurricane, caring little about anyone standing in his way.

For America itself, there will be a price to pay as Trump’s hyperactivity in producing executive orders, firing people and hectoring bosses to bring factories back raises heavy protectionist costs. But the rest of the world has greater reason to beware. Being “Trumpled”, that is, trampled by Trump, is a real danger not only for other countries but for the fragile planet itself.

In his inaugural address, Trump thumped out his determination to “Make America Great Again”. With little grace or eloquence, he let out an angry patriotic roar vowing to recreate brilliant shining America, improve education, bring back industry, create jobs, get rid of crime and restore power to the people, not the corrupt elite of Washington.

He went to work immediately. His now notorious refugee and immigration ban even on people vetted and given visas was only the culmination of the first week of his hurricane. Trump claimed that all he wanted to do was keep the US safe from the “bad dudes” out there. But terrorists from the countries banned were responsible for zero American deaths between 1975 and 2015, whereas terrorists from Saudi Arabia killed 2,369 Americans, and those from the United Arab Emirates killed 314. Both these countries were missing from Trump’s list.

For a sense of perspective, jihadists have killed 94 people in the US since 9/11, but 301,797 Americans have been shot dead by other Americans in the past decade, 21 of them by toddlers. Between 2005 and 2014, nine Americans were killed by Islamic jihadists – who in most cases were US citizens, not immigrants.

Trump started with an order to undermine Obamacare; he went on to authorise building the infamous wall with Mexico, and perhaps impose duties of 20 per cent on Mexican goods to pay for it; to remove roadblocks from the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines; to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and promise to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico; he expressed his personal support for torture to extract information; he promised new trade deals and pressured US firms to bring jobs back; he pledged a stronger military to crush America’s enemies; and sacked four key state department management officials with 150 years of combined experience in “house cleaning”. Dissenting bureaucrats were told to obey or quit.

In between, he attacked the media for not seeing the hundreds of thousands of invisible people really occupying the empty spaces on the National Mall at his inauguration, and for not counting up to five million fraudulent voters who had denied him victory in the popular vote.

Americans have only themselves to blame: they voted Trump into power. Foreigners are not so lucky: they clearly get no say in Trump’s world.

If Trump carries out the foreign policies he promised, the already fragile global geopolitical, economic, trade and environment system will be devastated. Economic progress made by many developing nations will be threatened as America turns inwards and protectionist.

There are bigger dangers to the Earth itself. Trump’s professed policies risk subjecting the world to a slow suffocating death as he disregards international climate change treaties [10] and encourages a new carbon economy. Or it could suffer a fiery death in war as Trump destroys old alliances and picks fights that could escalate dangerously. This, of course, is all too apocalyptic. But Trump’s policies are apocalyptic.

That’s why editors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the “Doomsday Clock” 30 seconds closer to midnight, now just 2½ minutes away.

Trump’s way of changing the world is equally dangerous. He continues to behave like a real estate mogul, cajoling, hectoring, bullying and shaming rivals or clients to grovel to get his way.

Sadly, it is hard to see any world leader with the stature and courage to challenge Trump in the name of the fragile Earth. World Bank and International Monetary Fund leaders, quick to give their opinions on Brexit, threats from disease and other crises, have been silent, perhaps for fear of upsetting their largest shareholder, the US.

There is talk of Trump getting together with his best buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, to carve up the 21st-century world as Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill divided the post-second-world-war world at Yalta.

Who gets to control Europe, China, Japan and the rest of Asia, Africa and Oceania may be up for grabs, unless China is brought into a triumvirate to control the world.

This would require an unlikely deal by the dealmaker, not least because of his strident claims that China stole US jobs and sapped the strength of its industry, and his condemnation of Beijing’s island building in the South China Sea.

Both President Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ) and Premier Li Keqiang ( 李克) have spoken up for the global commons but, to be a true world leader, Beijing would have to throw off centuries of history of the Middle Kingdom used to seeing neighbours as vassal states paying tribute. It would require China to join forces with other leaders in Asia and Europe in asserting the overriding needs of the Earth.

German chancellor Angela Merkel understands the need for global wisdom, but she and other European leaders are threatened by populist parties, encouraged by Trump and sometimes by Putin, who would happily break up the European Union.

Japan has been a great beneficiary of the peace and economic progress since the second world war. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s sights are set on a deal with Trump and rewriting history, rather than seeking allies who could make common cause in keeping the world – including the US itself, which would suffer from protectionism – open and safe against Trump’s threats. Abe and UK Prime Minister Theresa May should understand that being America’s mistress can only end in disaster when Trump makes the rules.

The important point is that Trump is wrong: the fragile Earth of the 21st century needs leaders with global, not greedy nationalistic, solutions for our common problems.

Kevin Rafferty worked for the World Bank and reported from Washington DC under six US presidents


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Can China use its soft power wisely to heal the world?

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2016-09-22

Kevin Rafferty

Kevin Rafferty says the global system is on the verge of collapse amid myriad flashpoints, and emerging superpower China must both listen and act with 21st-century wisdom to make a difference

Hosting the G20 summit meeting in Hangzhou (杭州) marked China’s international coming of age, which was done with wonderfully colourful showmanship. But the glitter cannot hide that the global system under which we all live has too many dangerous fault lines. Hangzhou and subsequent international meetings in Vientiane and Geneva, and crucial meetings at the UN this week and in Washington, show a system on the verge of collapse, unable to cope with the existing political and economic challenges, let alone new issues.

Can China, as the emerging superpower with global economic muscle and growing political clout, make a difference? On the showing in Hangzhou and subsequently, it is not easy to be optimistic.

In terms of style and delivery, President Xi Jinping (習近平) should be rated an A minus, given the heavy-handed security that closed down the city to ensure world leaders would enjoy sunny days untroubled by encounters with real people.

The single real achievement of Hangzhou was made before the summit opened, and it was a bilateral agreement between China and the US to ratify the Paris agreement on climate change. The G20 meeting itself concluded with a string of platitudinous promises that did little to grasp the real problems of the world.

Chinese media sang the praises of 10 achievements, but commitments to growth, greater economic openness, trade, promoting the digital economy, encouraging entrepreneurship and employment, while defeating corruption, all rank as good things – like motherhood and apple pie. But the last two don’t involve a collision between global and national interests.

China could congratulate itself on a well-organised summit, but Beijing above all insists that global demands must not trespass on domestic necessities, however Xi and his colleagues define them.

North Korea immediately tested international resolve after leaders left Hangzhou by carrying out its fifth nuclear test, almost as if Pyongyang was deliberately thumbing its nose at any idea of a global order. Beijing joined the chorus of condemnation, but stopped there.

Everyone except Kim Jong-un and his colleagues agree that North Korea’s nuclear weapons imperil world peace, but no one has a practical solution to resolve the issue. North Korea’s graduation to a nuclear state is only one aspect of nuclear dangers facing the world.

The nuclear issue is only one multiple-warheaded threat among a galaxy of others endangering the peace and safety of the world.

Summer is supposed to be the silly season when politicians go on holiday, but this year has seen the four horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping across media prime time.

These include death and destruction in Aleppo, an episode in a cruel war waged by proxies of great powers; the continuing flight of refugees now numbering 66 million; the dangerous polarisation of the US election; Brexit’s threat to the post-war order and stability in Europe; increasing hostility to immigrants in the West, and indifference in Asia; and terrorist threats that appear as if in some live whack-a-mole game.

All these have driven from the front pages myriad other potential flashpoints, including territorial claims in the China seas, the unresolvable Arab-Israeli conflict, dictatorship and lack of civil rights in too many countries, and the environmental threat to the planet. But all are alive and dangerous.

All the immediate problems also have medium- and long-term knock-on effects, potentially even more damaging than the original crisis. This is true of North Korea’s nuclear games, of potential conflict in the China seas, the US election or Brexit.

What is truly troubling about the modern world during these weeks of the G20, the UN General Assembly and the annual financial summits of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, is the inability of so-called “leaders” to comprehend an international dimension in their decision-making.

The only person who does have a global vision is Pope Francis, who has many times spoken out in defence of the poor and vulnerable and the protection of the planet. But how many battalions does the pope have? Or perhaps we should ask how many clicks does he have? – because modern politicians are increasingly driven by the trivia of soap operas that enchant social media.

That is a major factor driving leaders in the West to short-term and nationalist positions without giving a damn for consequences for the rest of the world. That their promises and policies may be based on slogans, half-truths, rumours or outright lies – think Brexit or Donald Trump – does not seem to worry them.

US President Barack Obama, normally a most thoughtful man, was driven to short-termism when he pushed for World Bank president Jim Yong Kim to be approved for a second term this month, even though his existing term still has 10 months to run. You can see why Obama did it – because he feared leaving the nomination to his successor if Trump wins.

Obama’s haste was a betrayal of the promise that the leaders of the global financial system would be chosen on merit, not according to the post-war old boys’ club rules that the US gets to pick the World Bank head and Europe the IMF’s.

Over at the UN, the choice of a successor to Ban Ki-moon led to question-and-answer sessions with the candidates, and leaked secret ballots of the voting intentions of Security Council members. But with only months before Ban’s term ends, secretive debate is still going on. The original old boys’ club, the veto-wielding five permanent members of the council, have made no promises about letting the best person win.
Xi is increasingly driven by how he sees his domestic agenda, on which critical voices are unwanted

That’s why China’s leadership of the G20 was critical and ultimately disappointing. Xi is increasingly driven by how he sees his domestic agenda, on which critical voices are unwanted.

Professors of realpolitik are writing books about the impending decline of the West and arguing when China will be the world’s top dog, as soon as 2020 or as late as 2040. It is natural, they say, that the top economic power should also rule the global political and military roost.

A president Trump might hasten China’s rise if he pulls US troops back from Asia, as key supporters are urging.

But the fragile and battered planet needs to get beyond old realpolitik of war and conquest and top dogs. Any new war involving the US, China or Japan would have disastrous consequences for all.

Beijing would show its real 21st-century wisdom when it uses its soft power – to listen to and accommodate people outside the Middle Kingdom and to understand that we all have to live together in some kind of harmony if mankind is to survive.

Kevin Rafferty is a political commentator


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Don’t blame globalisation for all society’s ills, in Hong Kong or elsewhere

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2016-09-20

Farzana Aslam

Farzana Aslam says the much-maligned economic model has been steered recklessly and the rise of localist forces around the globe makes it incumbent upon policymakers to find ways to balance global concerns with local issues

With six “localists” among winners of the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong, following on the heels of Brexit, the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for US president, and the rise of populist politics across Europe, it is tempting to think that the era of globalisation is coming to an end, or is at least facing an alarming backlash.

Hong Kong “localists” are outspoken over the question of autonomy, but the political platform upon which they have garnered support is a protest against the establishment and its failure to address the pressing social issues that affect Hong Kong as a community – namely, rising inequality, the lack of affordable housing and the public’s perception that government is serving the interests of big business at the expense of the increasing ranks of the poor. It is a common thread that runs through all political shifts occurring around the globe.

Outside of Hong Kong, the rhetoric has been squarely directed against globalisation, specifically international trade and open borders allowing the free flow of capital and people. This, however, is to equate the forces of globalisation with the forces that drive inequality, the stagnation of real incomes, the erosion of job security and of welfare services provided by the state.

Politicians worldwide have been too ready to invoke globalisation as the cause of their domestic woes, when the reality is that the decline in the prosperity and social well-being of the average citizen of these nations has been the result of deliberate domestic policies promoted under the banner of globalisation.
Globalisation can be a force for good if accompanied by good governance and responsible policymaking to ensure a fairer distribution of its rewards

As a consequence, investment in areas of public and civic life that have traditionally fallen within the purview and care of the state, such as health care, education and vocational training, housing and job creation have been largely outsourced to the exigencies of the free market.

Alongside laissez-faire economic policies, the era of globalisation has been marked by an abject failure to institute adequate mechanisms for regulation of the free market. This has resulted in a governance gap that, aside from being largely responsible for the economic crisis of 2008, has allowed multinationals to expand their wealth base, yet minimise – and in many cases avoid – their exposure to the payment of domestic taxes.

Rather than accept accountability for these failings in leadership that have operated at a local and inter-national level, politicians offer up “globalisation” as an explanation. Reference to “global” invites the public to believe that the negative consequences of local economic policies that have accompanied globalisation are driven by an invisible hand, a power beyond the control of local policymakers. This is nonsensical. For example, when politicians deride free trade, they conveniently forget that international trade agreements are always negotiated between nation states.

In the case of the US, their trade agreements have historically been heavily one-sided negotiations that have encouraged (at the force of a penalty) developing countries to maintain low wage levels and at the same time discourage the development of local labour rights, such as the ability to unionise.

While this policy has enabled the production of cheap imports to fuel consumption patterns of American households, it has also served to suppress wage increases among the working population of their trading partners to levels that would more readily compete with US wages. The American manufacturing industry has been decimated as a result, with many workers left disenfranchised and dislocated. It is only in recent trade negotiations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the US has reversed this policy by insisting that its trading partners institute the protection of labour rights including a minimum wage in order to encourage a “level playing field” with workers back home.

My point is that globalisation is not a wild uncontrollable force; it has simply been steered in a manner that has, to date, been short-sighted and reckless.

International trade and open borders are not inherently bad for the economic prosperity of any given nation state. Indeed they are necessary for the very countries that are now decrying them as evil. Many wealthy nations are facing a demographic crisis – their declining working age populations desperately need immigrant labour to allow their economies to grow. Equally, without international trading partners, most national economies would not survive. Isolationism and protectionism is not the answer.

Globalisation can be a force for good if accompanied by good governance and responsible policymaking to ensure a fairer distribution of its rewards. What is desperately needed is a socially responsible approach that will navigate globalisation with due accord to issues of local concern: a “glocalisation” of politics.

Let’s hope Hong Kong’s sixth Legco is up to the task and can focus on both Hong Kong’s local and global affairs in a way that continues to safeguard the city’s success as a global centre while at the same time addressing the concerns of local people whose interests lawmakers have been elected to represent.

Farzana Aslam is associate director of the Centre for Comparative and Public Law and principal lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong


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Hong Kong must seize the opportunity to cut fossil fuel use in favour of renewable energy

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2016-08-04

Albert Lai and John Sayer

Albert Lai and John Sayer say the city’s negotiations for new terms and conditions with its two power companies offer a great chance to develop the green energy sector

Imagine if our chief executive announced that everyone had to pay an extra HK$5,600 next year for their electricity to cover the cost of dealing with the effects of fossil fuel use. While this is unlikely to happen, the government is nevertheless subsidising the use of fossil fuels here. Data from the International Monetary Fund shows that this annual subsidy came to more than HK$40 billion in 2015.

Electricity generation accounts for 54 per cent of the city’s fossil fuel consumption. As almost all local power generation uses coal and natural gas, we can conclude that power generation and consumption benefit from more than half of the HK$40 billion subsidy.

As a comparison, we note that the subsidy is equivalent to nearly 80 per cent of our health care budget – a good share of which is spent on treating the effects of poor-quality air on our lungs and hearts.

Attributing the real cost of fossil fuel use is important for several reasons. The profits that the two power companies are allowed to make are based on a formula in their respective scheme of control agreements, which is related to their capital investment and costs. If power companies and other direct users do not pay the real cost of the impact of fossil fuel use, the public has to bear this cost either directly in their bills or indirectly through taxes, which the government uses to clean up the effects of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel subsidies stand in the way of changes needed to achieve the goals set at last year’s Paris climate summit of a net-zero carbon economy this century, according to both the UN and the World Bank.

In Hong Kong, the scheme of control agreements will expire in 2018, providing an important opportunity for change. The city has the potential for solar, wind, tidal and wave power. The key lies in shaping a beneficial renewable energy policy and an enabling market environment.

To shape policy, we can learn from the experience of similarly developed economies. First, market access and diversification is important. Beyond 2018, power company regulations should give priority access to all who are willing and able to generate renewable energy, with a guaranteed connection to the grid.

Second, investment in renewable energy must be supported by a guaranteed price for clean electricity. Guangdong province, for one, pays twice the rate for solar power as for coal-generated electricity.

Third, a redirection of existing funds is needed. The Environment Bureau wants to revise the scheme of control agreements so the return on fixed assets is lowered from 9.9 per cent to around 6 per cent. If all or part of the reduction went into a feed-in tariff fund, it could provide a stable source of funding to encourage the development of renewable energy in Hong Kong.

At a rough calculation, with 2 per cent return on revenue paid into such a fund, about HK$30 billion a year would be generated. Assuming the government would contribute another half, an annual HK$45 billion fund could be created. If the average feed-in tariff is set at HK$2.50 per kWh, the fund would be sufficient to buy 1.8 billion kWh of clean electricity per year. This would kick-start renewable energy power generation by raising its contribution to 4 per cent of total production.

Fourth, providing space for community participation is vital. Citizens and businesses with suitable rooftops could take advantage of clean energy programmes. The government could allot space in housing estates, public facilities and other suitable areas for groups to form social enterprises and plan community-based investment in solar or wind power facilities.

Germany has invested heavily in renewables, which now account for a third of its energy use. Some 92 per cent of Germans support the transition. One of the main reasons is that the government placed great emphasis on opportunities for ordinary citizens to participate in creating and benefiting from renewable energy programmes through funding and investment schemes.

In Hong Kong, there are 17 reservoirs suitable for the installation of floating solar power plants, similar to those now appearing elsewhere. Offshore waters are also suitable for the installation of wind farms.

Finally, there’s green finance for the new era. With a stable feed-in tariff, renewable energy schemes are predictable enough to attract green funds from around the world. To allow more people to share the fruits of renewable energy development, the government could consider issuing green bonds.

There are many advantages to the transition to renewable energy. A transformation of our energy system to multiple technologies and diverse suppliers will stimulate the economy and create green jobs.

The power companies may see asset growth stemming less from generation and more from an expanded role as providers of a smart grid. A new energy model for Hong Kong can reduce pressure on the government to import power from the mainland. It will also mitigate pubic calls to merge the two existing power companies, or to separate power generation and distribution.

For the public, implementing a feed-in tariff does not increase electricity tariffs. On the contrary, introducing more diverse renewable energy sources would reduce future vulnerability to increases in gas prices and electricity costs. The public would also benefit from reduced pollution and avoid hefty health care costs.

Meanwhile, local business can find new opportunities in engineering design, equipment supply, installation and maintenance in the fast-growing renewables sector.

For the financial sector, the development of local renewable energy projects is the best opportunity for Hong Kong to become a credible green finance centre. By 2030, it is estimated the world needs US$2.4 trillion invested in renewable energy to reach targets set in Paris.

China’s National Energy Administration has set a national average target for utility companies to generate 9 per cent of total electricity from renewables by 2020, not including hydroelectric or nuclear power. For Guangdong province, the target is 7 per cent.

In this context, the plan outlined above for Hong Kong to put in place incentives to generate 4 per cent of its power from renewables should be seen as only a first step in the right direction.

Who in Hong Kong will have the decisiveness, courage and vision needed to set ambitious targets for renewable energy development? After all, Hong Kong’s contribution to national and international reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately be even more important for the city’s development and the well-being of its people than the next chief executive election.

Albert Lai is policy convener at the Professional Commons. John Sayer is director of Carbon Care Asia


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How China has gone from climate villain to hero in just six years

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2015-12-11

Li Shuo

Li Shuo says since the last climate conference, in Copenhagen in 2009, there has been a remarkable turnaround in the Chinese leadership’s attitude to climate change

It’s an ironic turn of events. On Monday at 11pm, Beijing issued its first ever “red alert” – a warning for all to stay indoors, strap on their masks and protect themselves from the deadly air. The city was essentially under “shutdown” – schools closed, with construction and other industries on pause.

Meanwhile, world leaders are in Paris at the UN Climate Change Conference, trying to reach a global agreement and curb problems just like this. And just who is the world expecting to take the lead? China.

In 2009, during the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, China was characterised as the “villain”. Ask anyone whether the world’s second-largest economy would ever lead the fight against global warming and it would have seemed unfathomable. “We’re a developing nation,” they would argue, offsetting any responsibility to cooperate. Amid tit-for-tat squabbling with the United States, China refused to sign any binding deals. An ambitious global reduction target and crucial figures providing a framework for a drop in emissions were also watered down in the last hours of the talks, at China’s behest. Instead of a breakthrough, what the world witnessed was a breakdown of multilateralism.

But six years later, China is back and embarking on a journey to climate leadership. If Paris is a game, then China is here to play – fairly this time. President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) new administration offered a clean slate. At the annual National People’s Congress in 2013, Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) said he would tackle the pollution crisis with “an iron fist, firm resolution and tough measures”. The media called it a “war on pollution”.

Internationally, China is also proving it’s not afraid to lay out its intentions. China was one of the first big emerging countries to submit their post-2020 climate commitments, known as the intended nationally determined contributions, in the lead-up to the Paris conference. This happened in June, three months after the EU and the US, but notably before Brazil and South Africa in September, and India in October. The importance of this timing, in the UN card game where everyone plays with an eye on what’s already on the table, should not be underestimated.

Culturally, public awareness has improved. “PM2.5”, the amount of fine particulate matter in the air, is now in the Chinese vernacular; documentaries about China’s stifling air pollution such as Under the Dome go viral before the censors get to them; and when it all gets too much, Chinese netizens do what they do best and make fun of the situation they’re in.

It’s hard to believe, but what we’re seeing now is an entirely new administration with an entirely different outlook on climate change.

So what about that “red alert”? In a move that was long overdue, and possibly even strategically (or unfortunately) in line with the Paris conference, it demonstrates a government that has changed attitude – putting people’s health first (albeit temporarily) and seemingly listening to demands from the public to take action. This comes after failing to implement the alert last week when the “airpocalypse” covered an area of northern China the size of Spain.

But old habits die hard and China’s climate “makeover” is far from complete. While it holds ambitious climate targets, it still has its own interests in mind, with trouble toeing the line between GDP growth and the environment.

In the midst of a shift away from a carbon-intensive economy, coal use, the biggest culprit for China’s air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, dropped by 2.9 per cent in 2014. The coal market has remained bearish and is set for another major decline this year, with more investment going towards renewables – an industry that six years ago was almost non-existent, now becoming one of the world’s largest. In a cabinet announcement coinciding with the Paris meeting, China pledged to improve coal power plant efficiency, which will cut coal consumption by 180 million tonnes by 2020; and in a recent report by Nature Climate Change, global carbon emissions are predicted to stabilise this year.

But China is yet to commit to a nationwide coal cap, an important measure to maintain and accelerate the decline of coal. Despite pledging to limit use, a recent Greenpeace East Asia investigation found 155 new coal power plants were approved this year, adding to cases of asthma and chronic bronchitis and potentially increasing the death toll from air pollution by an estimated 6,100 people every year. Moreover, total expenditure on the 155 projects could reach an estimated 470 billion yuan (HK$566 billion) – money that could be better spent on further developing renewables.
READ MORE: Beijing under red alert for smog – and it’s going to get worse before it gets better [2]

Significantly, China’s intended nationally determined contribution, alongside the rest of the projected plans that were submitted prior to the talks, are still not enough to keep global warming under the crucial 2-degree Celsius point. The plans are merely a point of departure, not arrival, for China’s long march towards climate action.

But the key lesson here, and one that other countries can learn, is that the climate narrative can change rapidly even in a country as big as China – but there’ll be peaks and troughs, red alerts and other calamities to navigate. While other nations like Australia, Brazil and India – which appears to now be taking on the defensive position China had six years ago – are playing “hardball” in pledging to phase out fossil fuels, China has managed a U-turn in just six years. It has demonstrated that it has evolved into a cooperative world player that is making a concerted effort to face its climate commitments.

Now it seems the rest of the world needs to catch up.

Li Shuo is the senior climate & energy policy officer for Greenpeace East Asia