With eye on climate change, Xi Jinping makes new pledge at UNGA

At the UNGA in New York, Chinese President Xi Jinping says China will no longer build new coal-fired power projects abroad in view of the global need to address climate change and carbon dioxide emissions
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks remotely during the 76th UNGA at UN Headquarters in New York on September 21, 2021. He said China will no longer build new coal-fired power projects abroad in view of the need to address climate change. (REUTERS)
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks remotely during the 76th UNGA at UN Headquarters in New York on September 21, 2021. He said China will no longer build new coal-fired power projects abroad in view of the need to address climate change. (REUTERS)
Published on Sep 22, 2021 11:24 AM IST
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By Sutirtho Patranobis

With an eye on climate change, China will no longer build coal-power plants abroad, President Xi Jinping said early on Wednesday at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), reiterating his pledge that Beijing will seek to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and eventually achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

During his video address to the UNGA, Xi Jinping said Beijing, instead of building coal plants overseas, will support developing countries in the transition to green and low-carbon energy as part of the global effort to tackle climate change.

The Chinese president did not share details on how China would go about implementing the policy but, if put in place, it would restrict financing of coal plants in developing countries, which largely depend on coal to meet their power needs.

“China will strive to peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. This requires tremendous hard work, and we will make every effort to meet these goals. China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad,” Xi said at the UNGA.

“We need to improve global environmental governance, actively respond to climate change and create a community of life for man and nature. We need to accelerate transition to a green and low-carbon economy and achieve green recovery and development,” the Chinese president said.

Xi’s announcement at the UNGA followed similar moves by South Korea and Japan earlier this year, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US climate change envoy John Kerry have urged China to follow the lead of its Asian counterparts, Reuters reported.

Kerry, who was in China earlier this month for climate change talks, welcomed Xi’s announcement, calling it a “great contribution” and a good beginning to efforts needed to achieve success at the October 31-November 12 COP26 UN conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

“We’ve been talking to China for quite some period of time about this. And I’m absolutely delighted to hear that President Xi has made this important decision,” Kerry said.

Belinda Schape of climate think tank E3G tweeted that China still hosts more than 50% of the world’s coal fleet, so Beijing still needs to “lend credibility” to its domestic climate targets and unveil a clear timeline for phasing coal out at home.

China is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, accounting for 28% of global emissions.

According to a report published in late 2020, China cannot build more coal-fired power plants after 2020 as planned if it wants to honour its pledge to go carbon neutral by 2060, keeping in mind climate change.

The Chinese government’s plans to build more coal-fired power plants “contradicts” its carbon neutral targets, Draworld Environment Research Centre of Beijing and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Finland said in the 2020 report.

The report pointed out that China has around 130GW redundant coal power capacity among the total coal-fired capacity of more than 1,000GW. “However, power industry players have advocated for an expansion to 1,300GW or even higher by 2030,” it said.

QUAD, AUKUS, AFGHANISTAN

Xi Jinping said in his UNGA remarks there was a need to “reject the practice of forming small circles or zero-sum games,” a veiled reference to the US-led Quad forum of Australia, India and Japan seen as a means of pushing back against China’s rise.

The Quad will have its first in-person meeting of the leaders of the member states in Washington on Friday.

China had last week warned of an intensified arms race in the region after the US, Britain and Australia announced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance, dubbed Aukus, which will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

“Recent developments in the global situation show once again that military intervention from the outside and so-called democratic transformation entail nothing but harm,” Xi Jinping told the UNGA, in what was possibly a reference to the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops.

“Differences and problems among countries, hardly avoidable, need to be handled through dialogue and cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” he said.

“One country’s success does not have to mean another country’s failure, and the world is big enough to accommodate common development and progress of all countries. We need to pursue dialogue and inclusiveness over confrontation and exclusion,” the Chinese president said.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021