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Isabella Neuweg and Alina Averchenkova

Chapter 3 contains an in-depth analysis of climate policy in the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters – China, the European Union and the USA. The chapter details how they each face their unique challenges and how they have taken different routes in developing and implementing climate policy. China’s approach to climate policy reflects a governance system that is driven more by executive orders than acts of parliament. Accordingly, China has chosen to embed its climate change objectives in successive Five-Year-Plans. In the EU, policy making requires agreement across member states. Member states have decided to make climate policy an EU matter, setting binding EU-wide targets on carbon emissions, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and setting up a pan-European emissions trading scheme. US policy makers have taken a regulatory approach, with federal action based on an existing piece of legislation, the 1990 Clean Air Act. This reflects the contested nature of climate change policy, which has made it difficult to pass meaningful climate change legislation at the federal level. However, many states have moved ahead of the federal level, often enacting world-leading climate legislation.

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Ehtisham Ahmad, Isabella Neuweg and Nicholas Stern

This chapter focuses on the critical role China will play in determining whether many economies follow a green growth pathway or one producing fragile carbon-intensive growth. The authors highlight that partly through structural transformations needed at domestic level and through major international infrastructure and trade initiatives, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, China will stimulate the potential for growth and structural transformation in numerous other economies, particularly in Asia and Africa. However, the authors stress that the selection of projects is crucial as many may involve the development of major coal extraction and distribution infrastructure, leaving these economies vulnerable to high-carbon assets. Alternatively, investments could be made in developing greener, more sustainable energy infrastructure. Although these links with China will be important, they will not be sufficient to ensure inclusive, sustainable development, and carefully crafted national policies, associated with further infrastructure investment and tax reforms, will be needed for these economies. Thus, China’s initiatives and transformations are creating a critical juncture, in which these economies can leap onto a new greener growth pathway, but they will need to seize the opportunity or risk sliding back into unsustainable types of growth.