Augusto W.M. Teixeira Junior, Professor at Universidade Federal da Paraiba
Professor Augusto W.M. Teixeira Junior is PhD Professor of Political Science, Department of International Relations, Universidade Federal da Paraiba. He focuses on international security, geopolitics, strategic studies, nuclear proliferation and more. He also focuses on China and has published papers such as "China in the Contemporary World Order: Grand Strategy, Military Modernization and Balance of Power" and "Understanding the China-India Balancing Strategy."
Carbon policy is not only a competition for geopolitical influence, but also for technology and the future
President Xi pledged that China will scale up its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by adopting more vigorous policies and measures, striving to have carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. What do you think of the policy?
China's renewed commitment to tackle climate change is part of a broader national strategy. The second-largest global economy, soon to surpass that of the United States in the coming decades, the energy transformation underway is crucial not only for saving the environment but for shaping the future of the international political economy, with severe geopolitical implications.
Regardless of you believe in global warming or extreme climate, various countries and groups react to this policy issue to better position themselves on the green agenda. This behavior has important implications for several sectors of the economy, such as industry, agriculture, and services. The "green" label is not only likely to be increasingly relevant for access to international markets, but it will also tend to put pressure on countries to adapt to this agenda. It tends to be true for countries strongly linked to the Chinese economy, such as Brazil, an important exporter of commodities.
The green agenda coincides with a process of a technological and productive global transformation. Nowadays popularization of electric cars to the detriment of vehicles powered by fossil fuels is a good example. China's vast experience in this sector puts the country in an advantageous position for technological competition. Meanwhile, the European Union and the United States are also accelerating their plans to replace fossil fuels with electric vehicles. Although the penetration in these markets of Chinese automobiles may be hindered by domestic competitors already established in European countries and North America, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the African continent may be important import markets.
By demonstrating a commitment to the climate agenda, as exemplified by raising China's Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, the country is positioning itself assertively in the ongoing geopolitical dispute. As mentioned earlier, the technological race will tend to affect global markets. More than that, it will tend to impact how we produce and consume in the future. However, environmental policies and their implications occur within the geopolitical dispute over access to natural resources, markets, and logistical access. New energy sources will depend on conditions and resources such as regular access to sunlight, a good wind regime, minerals such as lithium, and new technologies to optimize battery storage. As can be seen, technological development is intertwined with the struggle for influence in different regional environments around the globe, placing China in strategic interaction with various competitors in Asia and beyond.
Like a race, whoever starts first tends to have an advantage over its competitors. In this sense, coupled with a foreign policy with economic development at its core, China may be well-positioned to ensure a steady flow of commodities and resources needed to sustain new, cleaner energy sources. However, this scenario also presents security challenges for China. With an emphasis on clean energy and mineral resources from abroad, the diversification of China's energy matrix may cause the country to increase its foreign dependency significantly. Challenges such as food security add to the problem of energy security. From the perspective of the environmental agenda of climate change, the technological and productive transformation needs to connect with a national strategy that makes it possible to converge economic, political, and security objectives. Increasingly valued in this century, the green agenda proves to be a challenge to development and global inequality. However, this agenda for China is an opportunity to lead a technological and productive change, rivaling Western and Eastern economies. For this reason, energy security links with climate change as an opportunity to reposition China in a condition of potential leadership in one of the few agendas of cooperative and multilateral appeal in the contemporary international society.
Collator: Zhang Jingyue