A danger or an opportunity? Post-Copenhagen China and climate change

The internal Chinese response to the Copenhagen climate conference


In the latest edition of China Analysis, published by the European Council on Foreign Relations and Asia Centre, we look at how Beijing views climate policies in the wake of the Copenhagen conference. China was blamed for forcing the conference into disarray and preventing a binding commitment on carbon emissions. In Climate policies after Copenhagen, the authors analyse the response to the conference within China itself, as it faces the worst environmental position imaginable, threatening its system and its interests.

  • China will not sacrifice economic development and growth to enter international commitments, but wants to restructure its economy towards low-carbon industries.
  • Beijing believes a global move towards a low-carbon economy presents it with economic opportunities for the future.
  • If Europe doesn't fight for better international standards in these new industries, from batteries to solar energy and ‘clean' vehicles, the future of environmental technology could belong to the Chinese economy, just as it already does in sectors like mobile phones.
  • China is adept at manipulating systems to deal with climate change so it gains full economic advantage from them. For instance Beijing is miles ahead of Europe in formulating carbon taxes, and will make sure that such taxes work to its own benefit.
  • For Beijing, environmental diplomacy and its economy are more important than environmental considerations

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

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