Katherine Morton

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Jul 19, 2021

In the 21st century avoiding catastrophic climate change demands a more ambitious climate action agenda. Xi Jinping’s recent pledge to strive to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 signals a stronger commitment towards de-carbonising the Chinese economy while meeting enhanced obligations under the Paris Agreement. Whether China can increase the pace of its domestic energy transition while de-carbonising investments abroad remains a critical concern for its global climate leadership. Of equal importance, yet often overlooked, is the question of how China is responding to the climate emergency from a security perspective. The official line, repeatedly endorsed at the United Nations Security Council, is that climate change is essentially a development issue. In a post-pandemic world, this paper argues that China’s ambition on climate change can no longer be assessed simply on the basis of its national contribution alone. Instead, China’s climate actions need to be understood in a global context, taking into account the high stakes involved in managing the shift towards a green recovery while simultaneously preparing for a less stable strategic environment.

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