China’s climate is objectively in a bad state. When Trump decided to back out of the Paris Climate Accord in 2017, he pointed a finger at China, saying that under the agreement, China would be allowed to build several more coal plants while the U.S. could not build any. Not only was that statement false, but China has begun to prove itself as one of the world’s leaders in fighting climate change.

China surpassed the U.S. in CO2 emissions over a decade ago, and now emits about twice as much as the U.S. Despite this significant and more detrimental environmental impact, China has been working hard to reduce their emissions and horrible pollution within their major cities. The PM2.5 scale measures the amount of particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less in the air, in micrograms per cubic meter. While the mean PM2.5 rating of cities in the United States in 2015 was around 9, which means there is little to no risk, Beijing had a rating of 73, which correlates to increased rates of cardiopulmonary issues, among other problems. However, China’s PM2.5 rating has been decreasing in recent years, and Shanghai is projected to reach the “moderate” level by 2020.

Though the PM2.5 ratings of China’s big cities are definitely something to work on, there are several countries worse on the scale, such as India. Gwalior, a city in India, has a rating of 176, which is twice that of Beijing’s. Residents there are warned to avoid physical exertion outside as that further speeds up the damage these airborne particulates can do. Though conditions are worse in cities outside of China, there is no denying the blanket-like smog covering most cities in China, and there is no denying the efforts that must be taken to fight the damages that have already befallen our environment. It’s up to China to prove that they can reverse their history of pollution and become green.  

Despite years of stigma built up against China, their administration has begun to bring themselves into the spotlight as leaders in the renewable energy industry. At the World Economic Forum in January 2017, President Xi Jinping said, “The Paris Agreement is a hard-won achievement which is in keeping with the underlying trend of global development. All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.” It is obvious from President Jinping’s extensive platform that China will continue to take steps in the right direction to fight climate change.

China’s National Energy Association has slashed over 100 coal-plant projects, as they seek to curb spending in this sector and redistribute these funds to renewable energy. The same agency has also described a plan to invest over 360 billion US dollars through 2020 on renewable power, mainly solar and wind. This proposal will dominate the world’s fastest and most needed growing industries, in a time when the US is set to take the opposite route with the Trump administration. With this spending in growing their infrastructure for renewable energy sources, China is also projected to create over 13 million jobs in this new sector by 2020.

China is investing heavily into renewable energy; the government is installing (on average) one wind turbine, along with solar panels to cover the surface area of a football pitch, every hour. In 2015, this effort totaled more than 10,000 football pitches’ worth of solar panels. China’s renewable energy industry is expanding quickly, yet few seem to notice. Years of contamination of the environment has brought stuffy and polluted air. The damage is already done, and so this isn’t an issue that can be solved overnight. The problem is long-term, and China understands that. As a country they are leaders to other nations in the Paris Agreement regarding their goals for pulling back on coal and other non-renewable energy sources.

Now that the U.S. has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, China has a great opportunity to stand up and take control of this massive global issue. Beijing and Brussels, along with the European Union, have agreed to work together to lead the energy transition towards a low-carbon economy. “[The] successful cooperation [of China and Belgium] on issues like emissions trading and clean technologies are bearing fruit. Now is the time to further strengthen these ties to keep the wheels turning for ambitious global climate action,” says Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU Climate Commissioner. It’s obvious that China is working to become a major leader in this growing industry, and only time will tell if they are able to make up for their past records of heavy emissions and environment-damaging energy sources.

China has laid out a strong plan and has shown its willingness to follow through. The real question is: is it working? China has focused on reducing CO2 emissions; however, these greenhouse gases are still a major issue today. The Climate Action Tracker puts China at “highly insufficient,” referencing the country’s efforts to combat climate change in relation to the 2 degree goal of the Paris Accord, which is an objective to keep the total increase in global temperature for this century under two degrees Celsius. China’s output of greenhouse gases has been plateauing in recent years. The yearly increases in CO2 emissions have continually decreased, while the deployment of renewable energy has been going up.

While it seems like China is doing a lot, especially in conjunction with other global powers, it may not be enough. That said, of the 31 countries monitored by the Climate Action Tracker, only seven are at least “compatible” with the 2° agreement. China ranks quite low but above the United States. The U.S., as one of the world’s superpowers, has an enormous responsibility to work towards fulfilling the central goal of the Paris Accord: reducing and fighting climate change. Many countries, including the United States, still have a long way to go. With the current United States administration taking counterproductive measures toward solving this global issue, hopefully China will be able to take leadership as another global superpower and drive the fight to reverse or at least slow the damages we are doing to our Earth.