By Ruby Cooper
Xi Jinping’s speech to the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party underlined China’s growing international leadership in the global battle to stop climate change. This is an important issue for humanity given the catastrophic consequences that will result if this challenge is not successfully tackled.
Xi eloquently asserted the stakes involved in tackling climate change, stating that ‘any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us… this is reality we have to face.’
In setting out the priorities for the future, Xi said that China must ‘develop a new model of modernisation with humans developing in harmony with nature’ and preserving the Earth as an ‘oasis of the existence of mankind.’ Xi added that China must ‘cherish our environment as we cherish our own lives.’
Xi stated that the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved from ‘the every-growing material and cultural needs of the people and backward social production’ to ‘the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.’ The central challenge of this new principal contradiction is balancing the need to protect the planet at the same time as eliminating poverty and raising living standards.
Accordingly, Xi repeatedly returned to the theme of climate change throughout his speech to the 19th Congress, using the word ‘environment’ and other related terms 89 times, which was even greater than the number of times Xi mentioned the ‘economy’ which was 70.
China is taking huge steps domestically to meet its pledge within the Paris Agreement to cut its carbon emissions by 60 to 65 per cent per unit of GDP by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. China continues to massively expand its investment in renewable energy whilst at the same time reducing its reliance fossil fuels including coal and tackling air pollution. China is expected to exceed its targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
Xi emphasised China’s commitment to playing a leading role on cutting carbon emissions, saying: ‘Taking a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change, China has become an important participant, contributor, and torchbearer in the global endeavour for ecological civilisation.’
Following Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the international Paris Climate Change Agreement – a move which was condemned by world leaders and left the US completely isolated – China is increasingly leading the world in the fight to stop climate change.