A great challenge for China is attempting to convince the world that its intentions and plans are genuine. One such intention is reducing carbon emissions. No one denies that modern China is one of the largest carbon emitters in the world. China has begun to feel the heat of environmental problems and is earnestly designing and rolling out policies to check the deteriorating environment. But Western media, environmentalists, and academics all question whether its intentions are genuine.

David Toke investigates the intentions and realities of China’s role in reducing carbon emissions. He cautions that one shouldn’t belittle China’s efforts in this war against environmental pollution simply because Beijing follows a different model of government. He bases his arguments around ecological modernization (EM) theory, arguing that Beijing’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions go hand in hand “with ‘core’ EM objectives and methods, including moving away from a ‘productionist’ economy and towards a more service-oriented one, and also in prioritizing technological means of achieving carbon abatement through renewable energy deployment” (p. 7). Toke refutes the allegations that EM is a top-down imposition of technology. He thinks that technological changes must be supported by requisite behavioral changes, in which people demand change and the political process and market support technological change.

For Toke, China’s conditions resemble those of some European countries than more than those of the United States. He blames the productionist model of development, as well as the unsustainable nature of economic growth itself, for ecological disaster. He asserts that China is recalibrating its developmental drive and rebalancing its economy, even if doing so slows down the growth rate.

China’s Role in Reducing Carbon Emissions busts three myths about China’s environmental governance. First, Toke argues that the change in China to shift towards more sustainability was triggered not primarily by the wisdom of its leadership, but rather by acceptance of pressures from its people. That includes the realization that the unsustainability of the building boom has created environmental near-havoc. By showing that pressure from people and civil society do influence the course of environmental policy in China, Toke contributes to the debate about the role of civil society in a communist state. He argues that a key aspect of ecological modernization is that the government has to negotiate with established policy networks of NGOs. At the same time he notes that environmental NGOs in China are dependent on state approval in order to participate in discussions about environmental or climate policy, and thus will be always be looked upon with suspicion.

Second, the book attempts to clarify China’s carbon profile. According to statistics the author cites from Greenpeace and the United States’ Energy Information Agency, China’s carbon emissions may have levelled off or even fallen in 2014–15. Toke suggests that the current method of calculating carbon emissions by country ignores historical emissions, which are important because carbon dioxide is long-lasting in the atmosphere. Is an individual Chinese person any more or less responsible for carbon emissions than average US citizen? For Toke, carbon emissions must be calculated on a per capita basis, which would put China far behind the United States, Russia, and the UK. He warns, however, that this doesn’t mean that China’s share of carbon emissions should be ignored. He suggests that American politicians are worried that without limitations on China’s emissions, Beijing could easily gain an economic edge over US businesses.

Third, Toke examines the changes in China’s energy consumption portfolios. He suggests that China’s investment in renewable energy is more than the combined total investment made by the United States and the EU, which will help China in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions by two-thirds or more by 2050, compared to 2015. Although coal accounted for 66 percent of China’s primary energy consumption in 2013, coal constitutes a falling proportion of China’s energy basket. Toke examines China’s ambitious efforts in generating energy from wind, water, solar, and the ever-increasing share of nuclear energy, as well as growing use of electric cars. He argues that rather than differentiating between the amount of renewable energy used by state and private-sector companies, the competition between them to achieve a target for sustainable energy is key.

Toke applauds China for achieving two of the four criteria of ecological modernization that he outlines in the book: services are now its largest sector, and its non-fossil fuel energy profile has increased. Nevertheless, the restricted role of the market in economic governance hinders healthy competition to produce more efficient outcomes. In addition, career progression of officials largely depends on pursuing economic development rather than combating pollution. These conflicting roles and responsibilities of officials in environmental governance prevent China from fully achieving ecological modernization.

The book contains clear and concise arguments, and it is relevant reading for environmentalists, policymakers, and those in academia concerned with environment protection. Toke appreciates China’s role in addressing environmental challenges and its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a way that will benefit humankind.