A greener dragon? Climate change lessons and opportunities for cooperation between China and Australia

A greener dragon? Climate change lessons and opportunities for cooperation between China and Australia

China’s commitment to climate change mitigation is an important economic issue for Australia. As China is Australia’s largest trading partner, any adjustments China makes to its economy will impact the Australian economy.
 
China has been signalling the importance of the environment and climate to its economy since the release in 2001 of its 10th Five Year Plan (2001‐05), in which it set targets for fuel consumption and energy conservation, and foreshadowed an expansion of forests as ‘carbon sinks’. This was followed in 2008 by a White Paper on Climate Change.
 
More recently, the 12th Five Year Plan set a target for the reduction of energy intensity and signalled an intention to price carbon by trialling an emissions trading scheme.
 
This presents opportunities for Australia to leverage its trading relationships to work with trading partners in order to mitigate climate change as a threat to human security. Climate change can threaten human security by slowing economic growth, making poverty reduction more difficult, and eroding food and water security. Climate change impacts are also likely to result in human
displacement and migration, particularly in the Indo‐Pacific region.
 
This paper examines the impact of climate change on Australia, and whether there are lessons and opportunities for cooperation from China’s experience. It contends that Australia is seemingly out of alignment with the international community in addressing climate change, not least because Australia’s mitigation actions have been constrained by economic reliance on coal exports, the domestic use of coal for energy production and the influence of vested mining interests on climate change policy.

The paper argues that Australia needs a strategy to communicate and demonstrate to the Australian public that mitigating and adapting to climate change is in Australia’s national interest, particularly in relation to human and comprehensive security issue s. It concludes that Australia can benefit from China’s experience as a ‘greener dragon’, offering lessons for Australia on achieving climate change‐related economic and energy reform, as well as sustainable development and cooperation opportunities.
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