If carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are causing dangerous climate change, China is the straw that stirs the drink. China emits more carbon dioxide than all the developed countries on Earth combined.
There is the rub. In his speech kicking off the annual weeklong Communist Party Congress, President Xi Jinping announced fossil fuels have a strong future in China as energy security will be among the country’s top priorities in attempting to advance economic growth. At the end of the conference, in a historic but not unexpected event, Xi was elected to an unprecedented third five-year term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
Xi said aspirational goals to peak and eventually zero out carbon emissions would be tempered with prudence given the recent power shortages following from a limited amount of renewable power sources replacing fossil fuels for electric power generation over the past few years.
Despite China’s commitment to peak carbon emissions between 2030 and 2035, in 2021 the communist state significantly expanded coal mining and use in response to power shortages that idled factories and slowed economic growth.
Xi’s speech restated China’s position that it will not end the use of fossil fuels until enough sufficient, reliable non-emitting energy sources are available to replace them.
“We will work actively and prudently toward the goals of reaching peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality,” Xi said in his address. “Based on China’s energy and resource endowments, we will advance initiatives to reach peak carbon emissions in a well-planned and phased way, in line with the principle of getting the new before discarding the old.”
In addition to increasing coal use, Xi’s spokespersons also made it clear China will expand its exploration and development of oil and gas resources to ensure energy security.
China is not the only country placing shoring up energy security ahead of fighting climate change. TheNew York Times and National Public Radio both reported on Germany’s race to reopen and expand coal mines and restart previously shuttered coal-fueled power plants in the face of a severe power shortfall entering the fall and winter. Germany previously shut coal power and nuclear power plants and replaced them with huge investments in wind and solar, with Russian natural gas as the backstop. Germans currently pay the highest prices for electricity in all of Europe. As wind and solar have failed to supply reliable power and Russian gas has been cut off during the Ukraine war, Germans face a chilly winter if sufficient coal power plants can’t be brought online quickly.
Italy’s new leader has announced her party and its governing partners want to pull back on the carbon commitments Italy made to reach the EU’s climate goals. The AP reports Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s new prime minister, “contended that the European Union had failed to craft policies that would ensure available, affordable energy supplies. Sky-high energy prices ‘have forced businesses and families down to their knees,’ Meloni said.”
Meloni’s Brothers of Italy Party, unlike other parties that contended to control parliament and install the prime minister, has proposed no specific emission reduction targets, and Meloni has indicated her government will relax Italy’s emission reduction targets. Meloni has also indicated she and her parliamentary partners support reopening previously closed nuclear plants and developing domestic gas resources in the Adriatic Sea instead of just importing gas from foreign countries.
Real Clear Energy reports Vietnam has decided not to end coal to meet climate goals it set when it signed the Paris climate agreements. Vietnam now intends to increase coal use and imports for at least the next 13 years because more coal, natural gas, and oil are necessary to meet the country’s growing energy demands.
In Latin America, support for fossil fuels is breaking out all over. The Offshore Engineer reports Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Guyana, and Mexico are leading the way in new offshore oil and gas development, securing financing and granting leases for new production projects. State-owned and private companies are also purchasing tankers and equipment and developing refineries to advance energy independence while increasing exports of fuels for which they foresee growing global demand.
While leaders of countries across Asia, Europe, and South America still talk about the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to fight climate change, they are moving forward with policies guaranteed to increase emissions—not for emissions’ sake, of course, but to secure the reliable energy supplies necessary to ensure economic growth and their respective governments’ ability to remain in power.
Actions speak louder than words.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is the director of The Heartland Institute’s Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.