In a welcome development, the firmly alarmist Climate Change News reports skeptically on China pitching its strategically ominous “Belt and Road” as green. The communist government may burble that “The Belt and Road Initiative pursues the vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable.” But, Climate Change News warns, “China’s energy investments abroad continue to favour coal, threatening to blow the global carbon budget.” A bit of realism about how the world works is very welcome from too-often-utopian greens able to see only the sins of their own societies.
It would be as tedious as it would be depressing to list the history of left-wing naivete about foreign tyrannies, especially communist ones. Even on the question of the environment, it was remarkable how willing many people were to equate capitalism with ecological catastrophe long before warming was a “thing” and despite the blatantly terrible record of the Soviet Union in every area from desertification to toxic waste to the straw that broke many camels’ backs, the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
The famous economists’ consensus in favour of carbon taxes to reduce GHGs, always assuming the goal to be desirable, hinges on their being imposed internationally, which requires that most governments pledge themselves to meet environmental goals and then, crucially, keep their promises. That the Chinese government lies a lot, and the more vainglorious its rhetoric the more squalid the reality, matters in all sorts of areas. The environment is definitely one of them. So if the likes of Climate Change News are casting a suspicious eye on the Chinese government's propaganda and checking up on its performance, it can only help us debate and make policy intelligently.