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Understanding how China is championing climate change mitigation

Anita Engels ()
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Anita Engels: Universität Hamburg

Palgrave Communications, 2018, vol. 4, issue 1, 1-6

Abstract: Abstract This comment deals with the question of how current political regimes could effectively contribute to the mitigation of climate change—and why this might happen. Against the backdrop of the US government’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris agreement, the rise of populist governments across the globe, and the slow progress of energy transformation projects in pluralistic countries, this paper focuses on China’s potential role in climate change mitigation. Since 2008, the Chinese government has switched to a proactive stance on climate governance and low-carbon development. Due to significant improvements in CO2 efficiency and a clear slow-down in the rise of its annual total CO2 emissions, China is increasingly perceived as a new low-carbon champion and appears to be in a position to take over global climate mitigation leadership. This comment examines the drivers behind current low-carbon developments in China and tests the assumption that China’s state-led non-participatory authoritarianism will effectively offer a solution to the global climate problem. Any switch to low-carbon development rests on complex societal preconditions and requirements. This paper discusses the reasons why the likelihood that the Chinese authoritarian regime will be effective over the long-term in lowering greenhouse gas emissions is uncertain at best—because of internal contestations, low public and private-business participation, and countervailing strategies to secure China’s global market positions. Understanding the foundations and nature of China’s climate change mitigation championship has important implications for fostering low-carbon developments in all political regimes.

Date: 2018
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