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The world finally seems to be leaning into the global clean energy transition in earnest. While world leaders have paid a lot of lip service to climate-smart developments in the past, many nations finally seem ready to put their money and their resources where their mouth is, with sweeping investments in renewables, clean energy technologies, and electric vehicles and the widespread development of “green” stimulus packages which feature clean energy as a central part of various countries’ post-pandemic economic recovery road maps.

But while there seems to be more genuine climate-friendly action in the public sector than ever before, there is still a certain degree of duplicitous politicking and double-speak as world leaders talk a big game about shifting their priorities toward fighting climate change while continuing to develop high-emissions economic targets and industrial sectors in the background.

This has certainly been the case for China. President Xi Jinping has been incredibly ambitious and outspoken in his emissions targets for China, the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. China has very publicly pledged to bring its carbon footprint all the way down to zero by 2060 and to reach peak emissions by 2030, and has positioned itself to lead the global clean energy industry, a feat which will be all the more within reach for President Xi considering the fact that China already holds a near-complete monopoly — as much as 90% in some cases — on many of the rare earth metals that the clean energy production chain relies on. But at the same time that China has made serious inroads to improve its greenhouse gas emissions in some sectors, the nation has also ramped up its coal production, both domestically and overseas, to a highly concerning degree.

Yale Environment 360 predicted China’s return to coal and warned that the country’s ambitious overseas development plans will directly imperil global climate initiatives. “China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a colossal infrastructure plan that could transform the economies of nations around the world,” the article stated. “But with its focus on coal-fired power plants, the effort could obliterate any chance of reducing emissions and tip the world into catastrophic climate change.”