For those concerned about climate change, and indeed many other environmental threats, arguably the most important country is China. Its population has reached about 1.3 billion, and its economy is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing. It is experiencing widespread and often acute environmental pollution with severe local, national and regional consequences. Perhaps most importantly for the rest of the world, China is now the largest national source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, edging out the United States in recent years (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency 2007).1 China is also a leading member of the developing world, giving it political and diplomatic powers that enable it to inﬂuence negotiations on environmental issues. Consequently, China is central to international eﬀorts to address climate change. China’s leaders have become concerned about climate change, not least because the adverse consequences for China could be severe, ranging from the impacts of sea-level rise along China’s long and vulnerable coastlines, to droughts in wide areas of China that are already suﬀering from severe shortages of water. Climate change could also contribute to tensions in the region, increasing the potential for violent intra-and inter-state conﬂict (China Meteorological Administration 2003: 20-2). This chapter describes some of the consequences of climate change faced
by China.2 We examine the state’s responses to the problem and explore the role of climate change in Chinese foreign policy. We conclude that China is not doing enough to address climate change. It continues to wait for rich countries of the world to take much more concerted action. To be sure, China has a strong ethical case for expecting the developed countries to act ﬁrst. However, its failure to act more robustly now may place it under greater moral scrutiny by future generations.