NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hold the Accolades on China's "Green Leap Forward"

April 26, 2011

Many have trumpeted China as an emerging "green giant" for its noncarbon-based energy production and its aggressive promises to cut carbon emissions.  However, the facts do not support this "green" success story, says Bjørn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

  • China indeed invests more than any other nation in environmentally friendly energy production: $34 billion in 2009, or twice as much as the United States.
  • Almost all of its investment, however, is spent producing green energy for Western nations that pay heavy subsidies for consumers to use solar panels and wind turbines.
  • China was responsible for half of the world's production of solar panels in 2010, but only 1 percent was installed there.
  • Just as China produces everything from trinkets to supertankers, it is exporting green technology -- which makes it a giant of manufacturing, not of environmental friendliness.
  • A 2008 Citigroup analysis found that about one-third of China's wind power assets were not in use; many turbines are not connected to the transmission grid.
  • Consider the bigger picture: 87 percent of the energy produced in China comes from fossil fuels, the vast majority of it from coal, the International Energy Agency found in 2010.

The reason China does not use more wind and solar power is simple:  Even when mass produced with cheap labor, solar panels and wind turbines are not cost-effective replacements for fossil fuels.  They appear so in the West only where politicians create generous subsidies for their implementation, says Lomborg.

Source: Bjørn Lomborg, "Hold the Accolades on China's 'Green Leap Forward'," Washington Post, April 20, 2011.

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