China and the Environment

The Copenhagen climate summit runs until December 18, and China has been publicly affirming its interest in the general principles which undergird the conference as a whole: climate change is here, it is sure to accellerate, and it should be viewed as a global threat against which international cooperation is necessarily deployed.

Then we get into the nasty specifics.

According to a dynamite article in Le Figaro, China still uses coal (“charbon” in French) for 70% of its energy needs; China’s energy needs will grow 95% between now and the year 2030 (assuming we get that far as a species); according to AIE, China will require about 3.4 billion tons of coal to meet its energy demands in the year 2030, up 85% from present demand.

In other words, coal, coal, and more coal is in China’s future.

Winter in Shanxi, via AP/Le Figaro

Sounds rather like West Viriginia, doesn’t it?

Yet, the AP arrives with this short and somewhat heartening dispatch from Copenhagen:

China says it is willing to provide details about its actions to control carbon emissions, moving to meet a key U.S. demand for verification of China’s promises to fight global warming.

Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said China is ready for “dialogue and cooperation that is not intrusive, that does not infringe on China’s sovereignty.”

His remarks Thursday came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. would join others in raising $100 billion a year to help developing countries fight climate change.

The financing of climate aid for poor nations and the verification of China’s voluntary actions to reduce the growth of its emissions address two key issues blocking an agreement at the Copenhagen summit.

This is certainly positive news, as are trending toward news articles that see the productive interweaving of Chinese national pride with an emerging self-image of a “green” superpower.

Of course, French philosophers (and bloggers) are now writing about the future and “green fascism,” or “eco-fascism,” not to be confused with earlier analyses by Robert Paxton of collaborationist Vichy’s love for the land.

But in the meantime we will still be immersed in the smog of the present, and evidence that things are changing rather slowly, if at all.  The following French photo-reportage, entitled “Germinal in China,” is absolutely stunning testimony from North China of the retrograde tendency toward coal in China, and its impact on the men who mine it.

via Si Mao Savait ("If Mao Knew") blog; click image for link to post
via Si Mao Savait

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