The Green World Order: India vs China — who can lead?

The world is sitting on the brink of a catastrophe. Neither the US nor China is keen to safeguard the world through their roadmaps on the Green World Order     

By Satish Kumar
Published: Tuesday 15 September 2020

There has been much talk about the shifting of power from the West to the East. The rise of China, along with India and Japan, indicates that 21st century is destined to be an Asian century. There are, however, disruptions.

Will China become as much of a super power as the United Kingdom and the United States?

One of the thinkers of world politics, Richard Haass, explained that a super power needs to have economic and military powers apart from the ability to intervene politically in any part of the world. Another qualification is the use of nuclear weapons. China fails flatly on both the parameters.

The second disruption against the ‘rising China’ theory is that there are more than two powers emerging on the landscape of the international system. The concept of middle powers such as India, Germany, Japan, South Africa among others is inching up to shape the world system together.

Chinese aggressions in many parts of Asia are showing its utter desperation to become the unparalleled power in the region. If there is a world order that could be developed beyond the conventional theory of the world system, then that is the ‘Green World Order’— one that creates a pitch for fossil fuel-free energy system. It appears more promising.

The world is sitting on the brink of a catastrophe. Neither the US nor China is keen to safeguard the world through its roadmap of the Green World Order.   

We have heard of the Panchtantra story: In the extreme exigencies of flood, a tree becomes a shelter for a tiger, a human being, a serpent and a peacock. None of them harm each other; they hang on calmly and mutually. Reason is apprehension of existence and it lurks on each of its head. The disruptions in climate have pushed different countries to take shelter under the same tree.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is a harsh reminder of the ongoing change. The beginning of industrial revolutions in the early 19th century in Europe, along with the political ideology of an unchallenged charter of individualism, created a world order that was based on ‘more consumption, better development’. It was highly racial with geographical superiority.

One after another geo-political theories — from Heartland to Rim Land — were postulated to justify the western interventions and shaping the world system on western interests.

This is how the 200 years of history of the world is with us: It has created a threat of existence, not only for Asian and Africans, but for European and American as well.

Now the larger question is: Which country has the ability to provide shelter? The United States is absolutely an odd-man out. It has been the biggest disrupter of the Green World. It did not sign the Kyoto Protocol and withdrew from Paris Climate Agreement as well.

China is developing a huge green-energy infrastructure. It produced almost 170 Giga Watt of solar energy in 2018 when India was struggling in double digit. But it has a dubious character. It wants to keep its house clean, but litters other parts of the world with fossil fuels.

The Chinese system does not think magnanimously to safeguard the planet through its inclusive approach. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely eclipsed the Chinese credentials in the international system. The way China has manipulated the World Health Organization in view of the pandemic, its ‘green and humanitarian’ face has been unmasked.  

Rest of the countries are not as big to shape the Green World Order. The only country which shines out in the crisis is India.

India will have the largest population in the world by 2024. It has tested democratic credentials and strong constitutional framework. The ancient Indian wisdom is based on Vashudhaiva Kutumbkam (the world in one family), which encapsulates each country in its fold.

India has displayed its commitment for the resolutions of Paris Agreement. The eight-fold jump in solar energy in the last six years has proved the point. India is touted to generate more than 450 GW of energy through renewable sources by 2030.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was awarded the ‘Champion of Earth’ by the United Nations Secretary General in 2018. India has made important progress towards meeting the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals, notably Goal-7, on delivering energy access.

India’s per capita emissions today are 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide — well below the global average of 4.4 tonnes.

Need for Green World Order

The world politics has been driven by the greed of oil and gas so far. Churchill, after the end of World War I, ventured to use imported oil in place of coal for British fleets. Since then, oil has been the driving force of world politics.

Geo-Politics of oil embargos are common. Oil and gas have not only been used as ‘sticks’ to hurt or deter foes, but also as ‘carrots’ to reward allies and ensure their allegiance.

The 25th UN climate conference in Madrid to switch over from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy served as a reminder to the bigger economies. But things have not moved as much. The US president Donald Trump, meeting with chief officers of the companies during the pandemic, assured them of carbon-led economic development in future.

The impact of fossil-fuel economy is visible. The trade war between the US and China is pitching for carbon-led energy system. Climate disruption has reached to the tipping point.

The whole world is severely under its grip. But certain parts of the world are more prone to climate change: Southeast Asia and South Asia will potentially face more severe consequences of climate change than other parts of the world.

Why can China not become a Global Green World Power?

The climate action tracker gives China a very poor grade, for the country has continued reliance on coal. China has failed to stop new coal-fired plants and is financing them outside of the country, increasing emissions elsewhere.

It remains the world’s largest producer of carbon emissions. It plans to finance and build roads, railways, bridges, ports, and industrial parks abroad, beginning with its neighbours in Central, South, and Southeast Asia and eventually reaching Western Europe and across the Pacific to Latin America.

While China has imposed a cap on coal consumption at home, its coal and energy companies are on a building spree overseas. Chinese companies are involved in at least 240 coal projects in 25 Belt and Road countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Serbia, Kenya, Ghana, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

It had been eyeing the coal resources of South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Russian Far East. Second, the Chinese political system is not transparent. Its next move is unpredictable.

Third, China is very keen to settle its historical scores. Therefore, its intentions are based on self-interests that would generate more conflicts in the international system.

Inequality and climate change are two sides of the same coin: Climate change is also related with lifestyle.

Western economist Thorestein Veblen, who coined the terms ‘conspicious consumption and invidious comparisons’, pointed out how individuals use luxury goods to show off their status.  Adam Smith, the father of economics, explained in his path-breaking book The Wealth of Nations that it is the industry that makes a country rich.

But ancient Indian wisdom contradicts the view. Gandhi once said that India cannot afford to follow the British economic policy of greed. If two-thirds of the planet failed to satisfy the UK’s greed, India — with four times the UK’s population — would need four planets to fulfil the greed.

Unfortunately, independent India copied the western pattern of development. That is why this government is working on to reintroduce the ancient wisdom of its own. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar stated that climate change is not merely a fuel issue but has a larger context.

Unsustainable consumption is the fundamental cause of pollution and ecological destruction. India has increased its solar energy capacity 12-fold since 2014. Indian stands are not contradictory. It says what it does.

The democratic credentials are well-respected. This government has prepared a blue print of Green World Order. It is secure, sure and pure.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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