China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Since 2012, it’s pumped more carbon into the atmosphere than the US and EU combined. But to leave the discussion there is to miss potentially planet-saving changes underway.
The inconvenient truth is that China is both the world’s biggest climate villain and the leader in manufacturing and deploying clean technologies. After more than a decade of lavish state subsidies, for solar power, wind power, and electric vehicles, those industries are now coming of age. All three are either becoming or set to become cheaper than carbon-emitting alternatives.
To be sure, coal is still king in China. But this year, solar power became cheaper than coal-fired electricity in 11 Chinese provinces. Wind power is set to reach a similar grid parity in terms of cost next year.
For electric cars, it is clear China’s biggest manufacturers also believe that a rubicon is about to be crossed. BYD, the countries EV leader, is investing billions of US dollars in factories that will expand its capacity by around five times last year’s sales.
A clean tech revolution would disrupt fossil fuel exporters like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Russia. But in a world beset with anxiety over climate change, many will cheer at hopes for a cleaner planet.