Decarbonization is being pushed ahead in Europe. Emissions trading is to be the central instrument for this. China is also focusing on renewable energies, but at the same time is investing heavily in coal. The result: Global CO2 emissions are increasing, local competitiveness is falling.

There are rules in political reporting that would seem absurd to us in football reporting. You describe the game of your own team lovingly. The waves of attack and the opponent’s shots on goal are not appreciated.

Which brings us to the Brussels correspondents and the results of the EU climate summit. They are being celebrated this morning as a breakthrough into a zero-carbon future without relating them to the attacking game of the People’s Republic of China.

The fact is: After two days of negotiations, the European negotiators have agreed on an accelerated decarbonization of European industry.

1. Emissions trading is the key instrument for making Europe climate-neutral by 2050. In the future, a certificate will have to be purchased for every tonne of CO2 generated during production. From year to year the number of certificates issued decreases, therefore their price increases.

2. The grace period for the European export industry is coming to an end. In future there will no longer be free certificates for productions that are shipped abroad. The steel industry and also mechanical and plant engineering are likely to suffer.

3. The CO2 sinners on other continents should also have to pay for their sins in the form of punitive CO2 tariffs at national borders. However, this CO2 border tax will not come into effect until January 2026. One would first have to convert the IT systems, according to Brussels.

Which would have brought us to the opposing team’s game. The currently second largest economy in the world, which will soon be number one, is setting a completely different, much more leisurely pace.

The People’s Republic of China is also investing massively in electromobility and in generating electricity from the sun and wind power. But, and this is the crucial difference, economic growth still has priority over CO2 reduction. “Actively and prudently” we will work towards climate neutrality, said CP General Secretary Xi at the start of the party congress. The word prudent is the cipher for slow.

At the party congress, the intention to drive coal mining and coal-fired power generation to a new all-time high was confirmed with great openness. This is the slightly different game strategy of our economic rival:

1. China’s CO2 emissions will continue to increase year by year until the end of the decade, according to the plan. Overall, CO2 emissions this year will increase by almost 300 million tons to 33.8 billion tons. China is and remains the largest coal consumer in the world.

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2. At the center of all thinking is energy security in order to be able to fulfill the promise of growth and prosperity for billions of people. After last fall’s power shortage, China has relaxed rules and several parts of the country are pushing ahead with permitting and building new coal-fired power plants. This is reported by the energy expert Yan Qin from the economic analysis company Refinitiv in Norway.

3. We are also observing a double game in China’s Africa policy. The hitherto largest financier of coal production in Africa has just made a promise that the state no longer wants to invest in the local coal industry. However, there is still no clarification as to what this means for the Chinese-African technology transfer, private financing and the continuation of the billion-dollar programs to expand coal production that have already been promised.

Conclusion: The different game of the European and the Chinese team leads to a result that Europe cannot want. Global CO2 emissions are increasing, local competitiveness is falling. Many of the family entrepreneurs who are still active today may soon belong to the “last generation”. Europe is going green and China is going strong.

Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, Chairman of the Management Board of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.