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Jojje Olsson är journalist och författare och driver nyhetssidan Kinamedia.

Joji Olson: China’s actions determine the future climate

When Public goes to the printing press, the future of the planet is decided in Glasgow. But the main player was not even present at COP26. China President Xi Jinping He was absent from the United Nations climate summit, and he did not send any of the prominent politicians to the country’s Politburo.

It’s a shame, because since 2006 China is the country that emits the most carbon dioxide. I myself spent the next 10 years in the country, a period in which emissions continued to rise. According to the Rhodium Group, in 2019 China emitted more greenhouse gases than all 37 OECD member countries combined, including the United States and large parts of Europe. Even per capita, China now pollutes more than the European Union.

Being among the cranes, coal-fired power plants and traffic jams in one of the country’s more than 100 million cities gave the understanding that emissions don’t come primarily from the production of export goods that are consumed in the West.

This can be seen in a China emissions survey conducted by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air. A number of SOEs have a larger climate footprint than many nations. PetroChina alone emits 881 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, more than South Korea and Vietnam combined. Emissions from Huaneng Power are equivalent to those of the United Kingdom, while China National Building Materials Group is at the same level as France.

As the companies’ names suggest, energy production – of which 75 percent comes from coal and oil – is behind the lion’s share of China’s emissions, along with a construction boom backed by government incentives.

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Sweden’s emissions of just over 50 million tons of carbon dioxide annually are a small puff of smoke by comparison. This does not mean that Sweden should be negative. But there are actions that play a bigger role in climate change than Bromma Airport and Swedish petrol prices.

Voters already understood this. According to a new survey by Novus, most Swedes believe that “economic pressure on emitting countries” is the most important measure of climate policy. For example, the European Parliament is discussing a carbon tax on imported goods, which China arguably opposes.

Given state control of the Chinese economy, emissions could drop sharply if the political will is really there. But other priorities take precedence. To address the sudden power shortage, the country’s coal mines were ordered in the fall to increase annual coal extraction by more than 200 million tons.

Thanks to its economic clout, China gets away with a lot. Companies do not dare criticize the concentration camps of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. Hollywood does not dare to have Chinese villains. Hong Kong’s democratic promises can be broken without consequences.

It would be fatal for all of us if climate became another in the series of questions that Beijing’s leaders do not have to answer.

Joji Olson, Journalist, author and runs the news site Kinamedia.