UNITED NATIONS — Chinese leader Xi Jinping stated on Tuesday that China would no longer build new coal-fired energy projects. He used his address to the United Nations General Assembly as a way to increase pledges to combat climate change.
Xi did not provide any details but the policy could severely limit the financing of coal plants within the developing world, depending on how it is implemented.
China was under intense diplomatic pressure to end its coal financing abroad. This could allow the world to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement goals to reduce carbon emissions.
Xi made the announcement following similar moves by South Korea, Japan and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres earlier in the year. This could make it easier for the world to meet the goals of Paris climate agreement.
“China said that it would support other developing countries in the development of green and low-carbon energy and will not build any new coal-fired power plants abroad.” Xi made this statement in a prerecorded video address to the annual U.N. gathering. He also stressed China’s peaceful intentions within international relations.
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Kerry quickly welcomed Xi’s announcement, calling it a “great contribution” and a good beginning to efforts needed to achieve success at the Oct. 31-Nov. 12 COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. We’ve been in touch with China about this for some time. Kerry released a statement saying that he was delighted to hear President Xi had made the important decision.
Alok Sharma, the head of COP26, also hailed the announcement. It is clear that the wall is closing in on coal power. I welcome President Xi’s commitment to stop building new coal projects abroad — a key topic of my discussions during my visit to China,” he said on Twitter.
In a measured speech, Xi made no direct mention of China’s often bitter rivalry with the United States, where the Biden administration has made policies on climate change mitigation a top priority and sought to cooperate with Beijing.
Xi repeated pledges from last year that China would achieve a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060.
Some experts have criticized those targets as not ambitious enough, though it allowed Beijing to claim moral high ground on the issue after then-U.S. President Donald Trump, who had called climate change a “hoax,” withdrew from the Paris climate agreement.
China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. It still relies heavily on coal for its energy needs.
One of Biden’s first moves after assuming office in January was to reassert U.S. leadership on climate change and return the United States to the Paris agreement, the goal of which is to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels.
“China is the last man standing. Xi’s promise to double funding by the U.S. Congress was welcomed by Justin Guay, director for global climate strategy at Sunrise Project.
Guterres welcomed both Xi’s move on coal and Biden’s pledge to work with the U.S. Congress to double funds by 2024 to $11.4 billion per year to help developing nations deal with climate change.
“Accelerating the global phase out of coal is the single most important step to keep the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement within reach,” he said in a statement.