American and Chinese State-Run Media Agree: China Is Leading on Climate Change

A woman wearing a protective pollution mask walks past a billboard in Beijing / Getty Images
• November 14, 2017 4:18 pm


Mainstream American media and state-run communist outlets in China are on the same page in declaring China as the new leader in the fight against climate change.

The headlines are strikingly similar. "As U.S. backs away from climate pledges, India and China step up," declared the Washington Post. "U.S. withdrawal from Paris accord offers China chance to lead world on climate change," said CBS. "China Poised for Leadership on Climate Change After U.S. Reversal," according to National Geographic.

"China, Germany Step Up as U.S. Retires From World Leadership," noted Bloomberg.

China's leading state-run newspapers agree. "China a leader in tackling climate change," read a headline from the Xinhua news agency, citing a United Nations official. "China to take higher-profile role in fight against climate change: Experts," according to the People's Daily.

On Sunday, the New York Times listed China as number one for "filling the void" to become a "climate change leader" since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the one-sided Paris climate agreement.

"When President Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement, America officially ceded its global leadership on climate change," the Times wrote.

China, "many political analysts" agree, is picking up the slack, according to the Times.

"China has indeed moved dramatically on climate change, both to meet its own pledge under the Paris accord to cap carbon emissions by 2030, and to start the world's largest carbon market and swiftly expand the use of electric cars," the Times continued. "In recent months, China has hosted ministerial-level meetings on clean energy and joined Canada and the European Union to lead discussions on climate."

It's not until the last paragraph that the Times notes there may be reason for "skepticism" around China fighting climate change.

"While the country is ahead of its Paris target, China still burns more coal than any other country." Oh.

Before the media crowns China as Leader in the fight against climate change, they could note its track record. China is the biggest polluter in the world. China's air pollution is literally killing its people. Fossil fuel emissions recently reached an all-time high "driven largely by more fossil fuel burning in China."

China has received umpteenth praise from the media for cancelling 103 new coal-fired power plants earlier this year. In reality, the country is ramping up its coal production.

China is building 700 new coal plants at home, part of a total 1,600 new coal-fired power plants planned around the world.

"China's energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade," the Times reported in July.

And if Syria joining the Paris accord is not enough to make the deal laughable, let's revisit what the Obama era agreement asked of China.

China could increase its emissions until 2030, while former president Barack Obama agreed to slash U.S. emissions by more than a quarter by 2025. The United States would also have to redistribute $3 billion to developing countries.

And while the United States would have had to limit actual carbon emissions, China and India merely have to reduce "carbon intensity," or the amount of carbon emissions per unit of GDP.

"That means China's emissions can keep growing as the economy expands, but at a slower rate than the growth in gross domestic product," the Times reported.

Greenpeace has called reducing carbon intensity "meaningless" in an effort to actually reducing carbon emissions.

It's very easy for China to praise the deal and take "leadership" on it when they essentially have to change nothing. Of course it's state-run media will continue to hail China's new leadership status. Maybe American media shouldn't do the same.