If Beijing invests in clean energy, this is not only good for the Chinese population but for the whole world. China could be a driving force on the matter of climate change, DW's Frank Sieren writes.
The Beijing smog is right on cue for the climate change conference in Paris: Over 650 on the air quality index is almost a record and over 20 times higher than the allowed limits. Proof - for the remaining skeptics - of how crucial the climate change conference in Paris is. Chinese President Xi Jinping (right in photo) is there and positive, saying his country is set on reaching a binding international agreement. He said the People's Republic hopes that the summit will help develop global mechanisms based on the principle of "joint but also individual responsibility" to face climate change after 2020.
A year ago, China announced that it would reduce its greenhouse emissions by 2030 and increase the proportion of renewable energies it used. The fact that Xi is serious about this and not only paying lip service to the international community is becoming increasingly clear.
China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, producing about 25 percent of global emissions. At the climate change conference in Copenhagen six years ago, Beijing argued that the United States and Europe had polluted the world much longer than China, but officials have since relented. In any case, Xi wants international climate summits to aim for successes now - and for these to have an impact on China's image.
Taking no chances
Nothing is being left to chance. In June, Beijing tightened its goals for the summit in Paris. The year 2030 is due to be a turning point in terms of CO2 emissions and by then 20 percent of energy demand should be met by nonfossil fuels. At the moment, the figure is 11 percent. At the same time, restrictions will have been put on the energy consumption of industry and by 2030 emissions are to have fallen by 65 percent compared to 2005. In 2012, industry still consumed two-thirds of the energy used in China. Beijing wants to get away from coal in particular and hopes to improve the air quality for the country's population of 1.3 billion by doing so.
There are 160 countries taking part in the Paris summit - together they are responsible for 93.5 percent of global emissions. Most have already set goals at home and are striving for fewer CO2 emissions. Paris is about trying to find a common solution, despite all the disputes and reproaches up to now.
The main bone of contention is how the ambitious climate goals should be financed. Industrialized countries have promised a combined $100 billion (94 billion euros) annually by 2020 to fund and attain climate change goals and take developing countries under their wings. China's special envoy on climate change, Xie Zhenhua, hit the nail on the head when he said that funding and technology would be pivotal for the negotiations in Paris. Moreover, China, which includes itself on the list of developing countries, did not hesitate to put $3 billion in a south-south cooperation aid fund.