China Is Pumping Hundreds of Billions of Dollars Into New Renewable Energy Projects by 2020

While Trump appoints climate deniers.

A Chinese maintenence worker inspects a solar panel in China's Fujian province. China is promising $361 billion in new renewable energy projects like this by 2020. Chinatopix via AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese. The Chinese disagree—and are pumping billions of dollars’ worth of investments into green energy over the next three years.

On Thursday, Reuters published details of the latest installment of China’s plans to break its deadly use of coal, an addiction that makes it the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitter.

The funds—$361 billion by 2020—are designed to create 13 million green jobs, according to the country’s National Energy Administration. New projects such as solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear power will form half of all new electricity generation by 2020 and will create the energy equivalent to 580 million metric tons of coal.*

The announcement matches China’s past pledges to kick its coal habit—the fuel that dominates its electricity production and creates heartburn for the country’s leaders, as the public’s angry reaction to foul air becomes a major political threat. Despite China’s so-called “war on pollution,” this week brought yet another toxic “airpolcalypse” to Beijing’s skies. Watch this incredible time-lapse video of the smog rolling into town:

China has been pulling out all stops to create a clean-tech revolution. Last year, a Chinese firm topped a reputable global ranking for wind energy production for the first time, beating America’s General Electric. China already leads the world in solar. (Go inside a massive Chinese solar factory with me, here.) China is also on track to peak and then begin to taper its greenhouse gas emissions around 2025—five years ahead of a promise made by its leader, Xi Jinping, in November 2014, as part of China’s historic deal with the United States. This year, China will launch the world’s biggest national carbon trading market.

But China is on the verge of losing its major global partner in these endeavors. Trump has promised to end America’s role in the Paris climate agreement and cancel contributions to UN climate programs. He has also tapped pro-fossil-fuel and anti-regulation types, including some unapologetic climate change deniers, for top positions in the new administration. For example, as Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt has repeatedly sued the Environmental Protection Agency—which Trump wants him to lead.

There are also Trump’s new anti-China trade hawks, including outspoken China critic Peter Navarro, who advocates a much more adversarial approach, including a controversial 40-plus percent tariff on Chinese imports, potentially ratcheting up tension between the two global giants even before Inauguration Day on January 20.

China has issued unusually blunt warnings to Trump and US leaders if they abandon international efforts to combat climate change—while saying they’ll act alone if necessary. “If they resist this trend, I don’t think they’ll win the support of their people,” said China’s longtime climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua before the November election. “And their country’s economic and social progress will also be affected.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article omitted “million” from the measurement of coal.

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate