China is crushing the U.S. in renewable energy
China may be the planet’s biggest polluter but it’s also powering ahead of other countries on renewable energy.
As the Trump administration yanks the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement, claiming it will hurt the American economy, Beijing is investing hundreds of billions of dollars and creating millions of jobs in clean power.
China has built vast solar and wind farms, helping fuel the growth of major industries that sell their products around the world.
“Even in China where coal is — or was — king, the government still recognizes that the economic opportunities of the future are going to be in clean energy,” said Alvin Lin, Beijing-based climate and energy policy director with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
More than 2.5 million people work in the solar power sector alone in China, compared with 260,000 people in the U.S., according to the most recent annual report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
While President Trump promises to put American coal miners back to work, China is moving in the opposite direction.
Coal still makes up the largest part of China’s energy consumption, but Beijing has been shutting coal mines and set out plans last year to cut roughly 1.3 million jobs in the industry. The Chinese government has also moved to restrict the construction of new coal power plants.
For the first time ever, China’s National Energy Administration in January established a mandatory target to reduce coal energy consumption. It also set a goal for clean energy to meet 20% of China’s energy needs by 2030.
Analysts expect China to easily meet that target. Greenpeace noted in a report earlier this year that the country’s clean energy consumption rose to 12% at the end of 2015. Renewable energy sources account for about 10% of total U.S. energy consumption, according to official statistics.
o help reach the 2030 goal, China is betting big on renewable energy. It pledged in January to invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($367 billion) in renewable power generation — solar, wind, hydro and nuclear — by 2020.
The investment will create about 10 million jobs in the sector, the National Energy Administration projects. China currently boasts 3.5 million jobs in clean energy, by far the most in the world, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
The country has already become a major manufacturer and exporter of renewable energy technology, supplying some two-thirds of the world’s solar panels.