China’s Xi takes small step to boost emission reduction goals

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced incremental increases to the world’s biggest emitter’s climate goals at a global summit where he was expected to build on his ambitious pledge to be carbon neutral by 2060.

Xi said China would seek to cut emissions per unit of gross domestic product by “more than” 65 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, raising the target slightly from its previous goal of cutting pollution by 60 per cent to 65 per cent. China will seek to make non-fossil fuels about 25 per cent of its primary energy mix by the end of the decade.

The promises were at the weakest end of forecasts by climate experts and raise questions about how serious China is about realizing its pledge to be carbon neutral. No country can do more to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change, and experts have expressed concerns about the lack of shorter term details in China’s 2060 proposal.

“This is an incremental step towards the right direction, but more needs to be done to align near term action and China’s carbon free vision,” said Li Shuo, a climate analyst at Greenpeace East Asia.

In his speech, Xi also raised the idea of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” a concept that developing nations have used to urge richer countries to contribute more to the fight against climate change.

“We need to raise ambition and foster a new architecture of climate governance, where every party does its part,” he said. “Developed countries need to scale up support for developing countries in financing, technology and capacity building.”

China will also increase its forest stock volume by 6 billion cubic meters from 2005 levels and bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kilowatts, Xi said.

Xi failed to address China’s plans for its coal industry. The nation mines and burns half the world’s supply of the dirtiest fossil fuel, and new coal-fired power plants are still being built despite the 2060 target.

“With its growing coal fleet and increasing emissions from steel and cement industries, the country is falling back to its old addiction to fossil energy and infrastructure investment,” said Greenpeace’s Li. “An urgent rehabilitation is needed to preserve the glimmer of progress ignited at the Paris Agreement.”

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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