As the Trump administration continues its pursuit of fossil fuels, the rest of the world moves on toward greener energy, and China is running circles round nearly everyone as it becomes the global leader in solar energy production.
And at a time that President Donald Trump is rolling back regulations of all kinds, the Chinese government has been cracking down on companies failing to follow emissions regulations, closing about 40 percent of its factories in recent years for flouting the rules.
China has already cleared its goal of reaching a capacity of 105 GW by the end of 2020. The country has now attained 112.34 GW, and as such has tweaked its forecast for 2017, now predicting that this year’s installations will total between 40 and 45 GW when all is said and done.
That was last year. In a report released this year, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis noted that China is expected to maintain its renewable energy sector growth into the foreseeable future.
“As the global transition toward renewables gains pace and as battery storage and electric vehicles technologies pick up momentum, China is setting itself up to dominate these sectors globally over the next several decades of this century."
But the United States continues to shrink back from promoting renewable energy. On the world stage, rather than springing forward the Trump administration seems to be reverting to old ways of thinking about coal, essentially holding open the door for countries like China to step into the spotlight.
The trajectory is in stark contrast to that of the US, which last year pulled out of the Paris climate accord and has renewed its support for the coal industry. The decision to abandon the Paris agreement “led to China’s quick reaffirmation of its emissions-reduction pledge”, the report said.
“That allows it to further project itself globally as a responsible major power while addressing its domestic air pollution concerns and building world-leading capacity in new energy markets.”
“Although China isn’t necessarily intending to fill the climate leadership void left by the US withdrawal from Paris, it will certainly be very comfortable providing technology leadership and financial capacity so as to dominate fast-growing sectors such as solar energy, electric vehicles and batteries.”
Showcasing its strategic turn at last year's Bonne climate talks, the U.S. made a last minute change in a scheduled event from "Action on Spurring Innovation and Deploying Advanced Technologies" to "The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation".
The event's description summed up the Trump administration's intentions well:
“It is undeniable that fossil fuels will be used for the foreseeable future, and it is in everyone’s interest that they be efficient and clean. This panel will explore how the US will be a leader in cutting carbon emissions through cleaner, more efficient fossil fuels and other energy sources.”
Andrew Light of the World Resources Institute said: “Whoever the Trump administration is trying to target with this event, it isn’t people in the negotiating hall – they’re clearly focused on the booming global markets in renewable energy. At best, this event will be a curiosity, given the isolation of the US now in the international process.”
Last year the energy secretary, Rick Perry, proposed moves to slow the phasing out of the ageing plants and Trump vowed to repeal Obama-era environmental regulations in a bid to end a so-called “war on coal”.
However, independent analysis found the subsidies plan would cost taxpayers $10.6bn a year, and the commission on Monday said there was no evidence that retiring coal-fired power plants threatened the reliability of the nation’s electricity grid.