A new report this month from Rhodium Group explains that China’s 2019 greenhouse gas emissions eclipsed emissions from every single developed country in the world—combined. This is the first time China, the world’s worst polluter since emissions began to skyrocket in the ‘90s, has been able to claim this dubious distinction.
The U.S. peaked emissions in 2007 and, according to the IEA, has reduced more emissions than anyone else in the history of energy. We’ve been making historic reductions mainly because of two things considered off-limits by the progressive left: innovative fracking and carbon-free nuclear energy. While our emissions have been decreasing dramatically, China’s emissions haven’t even peaked yet, with a goal set to do so by 2030. This timeline gives China a free pass and an unfair economic advantage over us until then.
While the United States has become the world leader in reducing emissions, China’s unfettered pollution has the potential to negate the good work we have done and must keep doing. We can’t take their pledges on climate, human rights, or anything else at face value. We need to be realistic: China is a bad actor, and strong U.S. leadership is needed to actually reduce global emissions.
Despite these facts, the U.S. is still somehow demonized in mainstream global climate rhetoric. The U.S. has work to do in order to continue reducing emissions, but few global actors seem willing to call out China for its excess. Criticism of their environmental record is often met with claims that China is still a developing nation, but the truth is they have the second largest economy in the world—just behind that of the United States.
Democrats often even praise China for their leadership in solar and wind deployment, as if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is doing that with moral conviction and concern for the environment. The truth is different: China’s government commits genocide, locks ethnic minorities in re-education camps, and even sterilizes women. China has only turned to renewables because there aren’t enough fossil fuels within the nation’s borders. That’s why they’ve been building a monopoly on rare-earth elements and critical minerals while keeping costs low with forced labor. Those resources are essential to making solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries for electric vehicles. Not only does the CCP want to minimize any dependence on foreign regimes for energy, but ideally, they want to make other countries dependent on them. For example, they continue to finance coal plants all across the world.
As the U.S. contemplates a renewable energy revolution, we must be careful not to depend too much on Chinese supply chains for rare-earth minerals and the manufacturing of renewable technologies, as some on the left have inadvertently proposed. As a matter of both national security and climate action, the U.S. must prioritize using both American natural resources and labor to fuel this mission. If we do not, we will have learned nothing by the pandemic caused by China’s recklessness.
We must build on what’s made the U.S. the leader in reducing emissions while also jumpstarting our economy following the COVID-19 pandemic. But we also must scale up U.S. mining and manufacturing so we don’t have to depend on the “kindness” of bad actors to fight climate change and fuel our way of life. The only way to reduce global emissions is with American leadership, powered by our free enterprise system and the might of innovation.
No one should trust China for their energy needs, so the U.S. must gain the world’s trust to do so instead. Expanding domestic manufacturing of rare-earth elements and critical minerals necessary for innovative energy technology is a win for our economy, our workers, and the environment. Exporting economical U.S. emission-reducing technologies to high-emitting countries will lower emissions while boosting our economy in the process. Fighting climate change and outmaneuvering China are two intrinsically-entwined goals.