President Trump believes the way to create jobs is by engaging in a trade war with China. A new report, however, makes clear that the Chinese understand the way to create the jobs of the future is by betting big on the strategic industries of the future — clean energy, batteries, and electric vehicles.
Last year, the world added more solar power capacity than coal, nuclear, or gas-fired power capacity combined. That’s one of the bombshells from “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018,” which UN Environment, the Frankfurt School, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released Wednesday.
Last year a record 157 gigawatts of overall renewable power were commissioned, “far out-stripping the 70GW of net fossil fuel generating capacity added last year.”
China led the pack, investing a record $126 billion in renewables, a 30 percent increase from last year — and a remarkable 45 percent of total global spending. It’s also more than triple the total U.S. investment in renewables, which came to $40.5 billion last year.
China is aiming to be “the renewable energy superpower of the future” according to an article on “Renewable Energy and Chinese Power,” by Amy Myers Jaffe in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs.
Jaffe, who is the Director of the Council on Foreign Relations program on Energy Security and Climate Change, warns the “United States risks frittering away its dominance of the global energy market” by focusing on fossil fuels to the exclusion of all forms of clean energy.
Jaffe explains that China’s move to clean clean is strategic: “Beijing hopes to make itself an energy exporter to rival the United States, offering other countries the opportunity to reduce their purchases of foreign oil and gas — and cut their carbon emissions in the process.”
After all, the world’s nations unanimously agreed in 2015 Paris to leave most fossil fuels in the ground. And even though Trump said last year he will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the rest of the world is moving as quickly as possible towards clean energy.
China’s pivot to clean energy supports “their ambition to replace the United States as the most important player in many regional alliances and trading relationships,” notes Jaffe.
And, as the new report makes clear, it’s not just renewables that the Chinese seek dominance in. They have taken the lead in other strategic clean energy industries, notably electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries. In 2017 alone, China had two-and-a-half times the EV sales the U.S. did.
So even as Trump focuses on backward-looking energy sources like coal and backward-looking trade policies such as these latest tariff wars, the forward-looking Chinese have seized the initiative on the core job-creating industries of the future.