China Thinks It's a Developing Country Now

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The largest greenhouse gas emitter wants wiggle room when it comes to cutting emissions.

The UN climate negotiations are going on now. As usual, rich (developed) countries are demanding that poor (developing) countries decrease their emissions, while developing countries say they need additional support.

Many developing countries argue that rich countries spent centuries polluting to get their industries up and running, and it's not fair to expect poor countries to skip this phase of economic development. It's a perfectly fair point, one that China is trying to take advantage of.

“Developing countries are not comfortable or happy. [We need to] see if developed countries have honored their commitments," said Xie Zhenhua, the Chinese minister and delegate to the negations. "Still some countries have not started their mitigation efforts, or provided financial support [to poor nations]. We strongly urge them to pay up on their debts.”

For the purposes of these climate negotiations, China wants to be considered a developing country, meaning it would get considerable wiggle room when it comes to cutting emissions.

“We need flexibility,” Zhenhua continued. “Developing countries have very varied capabilities. If more [financial and technological] support is given to developing countries, they will have more capabilities and stronger actions [on emissions].”

China is certainly developing in a number of ways. But as far as carbon emissions go, China's claim to be some poor country that shouldn't have to cut emissions the way the U.S. or Europe does is laughable. China makes more greenhouse gasses than any other country in the world; the country emitted 10,641,788.99 kilotons of carbon dioxide in 2015, according to the EU emissions database for global atmospheric research.

China is right in that developed countries need to step up their game; the U.S. is perhaps the worst offender here.

“The United States has an abundance of natural resources and is not going to keep them in the ground,” Wells Griffith, one the the U.S. delegates to the talks, explained in a panel discussion.

But China can't excuse itself either. The world needs China to seriously cut down its emissions, whatever the label the country wants to give itself.