Donald Trump wants coal power and no climate protection. China, on the other hand, wants to stop global warming, clean air and green electricity. Nevertheless, China has not yet begun "the coal exit", says Klimaforscher Edenhofer.
Mr. Edenhofer, China was highly praised at the climate conference in Marrakech. Or is the hope of motivating the country to mitigate climate change?
Edenhofer: China has a great interest in being perceived as a soft power in the concert of international politics, and to gain a stronger international recognition, which is then also used in other fields of international politics Can Already in Paris, China has been very productive. Now the country says clearly: Even if the US disembark, we continue.
And in China itself?
Here, a contradictory picture emerges: China has greatly expanded its capacity in wind and photovoltaics. The country is one of the largest markets – if not the largest – for renewables. Nevertheless: In the year 2015 two new coal-fired power plants were built every week. The question of coal will decide whether China will take a serious step towards climate protection in the coming years. And India continues the renaissance of coal.
Could China soon get out of the coal?
China must get out of the coal – alone, because the local air pollution in Beijing will be a competitive disadvantage. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the exit from the coal has begun.
It is still unclear whether the decoupling between economic growth and emission growth actually took place there. It is not impossible for China to do this. But this requires a powerful act of force. It is still too early to announce the farewell to coal in China.
Do you lack clear political announcements?
Yes, the government must show that it is using the right tools: a national emission trading has not yet been introduced, the construction of further coal-fired power plants has not yet been banned.
We also do not see that we will soon have a sufficiently high CO2 price. However, I hope that China is planning a national emissions trading system. It would be important to introduce a minimum price.
Should Europe encourage China to more climate protection?
Emissions have risen in Europe in 2015. So Europe has no reason to be celebrated as a climatologic model boy. The most important instrument of European climate policy – the European emissions trading system – is ineffective because the price of CO2 emissions is far too low.
What does it mean for China?
China should not repeat the mistake of European emissions trading. It should immediately introduce a minimum price. If an economic downturn occurs at any time, the emissions will fall below the permitted upper limits. This results in surplus CO2 emissions and this leads to a fall in prices. Europe already has a mature trading system, it could show that the minimum price works.
How important would it be for China to continue its strong international engagement in the event of the US withdrawing from climate protection?
China sent a strong signal: Even if the US disembark, China wants to stay. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to believe that the power vacuum left by the US on leaving is easy to fill – not even by China. We would have needed the Americans.
And how is it going on in the United States?
In the US, the slate gas revolution will lead to a further decline in national emissions. It is unlikely that Donald Trump will build coal-fired power stations in the US. But he could, of course, try to force the export of coal. If there were no serious climate policy in the rest of the world, then the US would have a great incentive to become a coal emissary. In this respect the disturbance potential of the United States in the international scene is considerable.
Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer is chairman of the Working Group III of the World Climate Commission (IPCC), Deputy Director and Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Professor of the Economics of Climate Change at the Technical University of Berlin and Director of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons And Climate Change (MCC).
The interview was conducted by Martina Herzog (dpa).