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Race with China—The Environmental Leg?

In late April, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, China, revised its environmental protection laws for the first time in twenty-five years. According Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, the revisions will allow for stricter punishments against companies or individuals caught polluting the environment. This comes after the country had long rejected adhering to clean energy standards in fear of hindering its economic growth and production.

China’s shift in position regarding clean energy regulations can be attributed to the hazardous consequences of pollution the country is now witnessing on the health of its citizens. Faced with high levels of water and soil contamination, declining animal populations, and dangerously low air quality, Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, stated that China is ready to “declare war” on pollution.

Although the idea may seem laughable at first, can China simultaneously be “declaring war” on the U.S. in terms of challenging it to adopt more clean energy policies? While the U.S has always remained at the forefront of the international environmental movement, it has been just as stubborn as China in accepting clean energy standards. However, now, a week after China made its bold move to increase its enforcement of environmental law, the Obama administration unveiled a sweeping climate change report termed “The National Climate Assessment.” The report lays out specifically what effects climate change is having on certain geographic regions of the U.S. and what could happen if they are not addressed. In response to the rollout, the administration is expected to make more of an effort to expand its climate initiative.

If China wanted to challenge the U.S., it certainly did. Now that China has taken the international clean energy initiative more seriously, the pressure is on for the U.S. to follow. However, this may not come easy. According to The New York Times, as the Obama administration is beginning to shore up public support for the president’s climate policies, Republicans are already accusing the President of plotting, not a “war on pollution” but a “war on coal.” The release of the new report is sure to cause a major political battle this upcoming summer, and rest assured, the international community WILL be watching.

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