China sees it as a brilliant opportunity to fleece the gullible for as much money as it can, to burnish its international image by making all the right green noises, and to blackmail the West into providing it with free technology.
But it has no intention whatsoever of sacrificing economic growth by reducing its carbon dioxide emissions.
Obama and other Western leaders like to pretend that China’s appalling air pollution – the “airpocalypse” afflicting major cities which kills at least half a million a year – gives it a strong incentive to reduce its CO2 levels. But in fact the opposite is true.
That’s because China understands – as the West pretends not to – that CO2 and “pollution” are very different things.
Not only do the goals of reducing carbon emissions and air pollution not reinforce each other, they conflict. Carbon dioxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas that does not harm health. Efforts to reduce it rely on un-proven abatement technologies, and are prohibitively expensive. In contrast, abating air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide rely on proven technologies and are relatively inexpensive.
Although China’s leaders aim to reduce the country’s fossil-fuel consumption to 80% of its energy mix by 2030, they will not forsake national economic growth for the supposed global good. This is because China’s Communist Party knows that to stay in power – its highest priority – it must maintain the economic growth rates that have raised the incomes of much of its population and kept opposition at bay. China’s leaders know that GDP growth is tied to fossil- fuel use.