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China’s Evolving Development Dilemma in the Context of the North-South Climate Governance Debate

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This paper examines China’s policy and position in relation to the evolving climate change negotiations in order to explain how China is dealing with the dilemma of meeting its growing development needs while reducing ghg emissions. It argues that global climate governance requires steering and leadership to deal with the interlocked political process; that the developing countries (dcs) right to develop is challenged by the need for ecosystemic standards especially as climate change is seen as a zero-sum game as the more one country emits the less another one can. This is especially problematic as Industrialized countries (ics) appear to be both unwilling and unable to increase growth without increasing emissions. This explains China’s policy of insisting on its right to develop, of demanding that ics reduce their emissions and that they fulfil their obligations under the fccc, while expressing its willingness to take on a voluntary target. The paper argues that China’s state-led transition has eight unique characteristics that may allow it to lead as it moves beyond a no-regrets policy to a circular and green economy, cooperating with other dcs and mobilizing conscious green values in citizens. The question remains—will the initial success and scale of state-led transition lead the global green transition to a sustainable world?

Affiliations: 1: University of Amsterdam, Department of Human Geography, Planning, and International Development; 2:


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