China on Saturday pledged further additional measures to tackle climate change over the next decade, but said it would not reveal all of its plans until it saw the next steps taken by its main global rival, the United States. United.
Speaking at an online summit to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement, Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, said that by 2030, China will reduce its carbon intensity by more than 65%. Carbon intensity is a measure of greenhouse gas emissions relative to economic activity.
Xi also said China will triple its wind and solar power capacity to over one billion kilowatts and expand its forests.
Xi’s statement on Saturday came three months after announcing in September that China would reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases that have warmed the planet since the dawn of the era. industrial, to net zero, which means that China would remove all emissions from the atmosphere that it could not reduce, by 2060.
China, the factory of the world, is currently the world’s largest producer of gases that warm the planet, and anything it does to reduce its emissions is a key to tackling climate change.
China’s greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, and Xi’s statement reiterated on Saturday that they would continue to grow and only peak a few times. time “before 2030”. It missed the timeline many climate advocates hoped for: China would peak in emissions by 2025.
Xi said nothing about setting an absolute limit on China’s carbon dioxide emissions, or whether or how he plans to reduce the country’s dependence on coal. China is by far the world’s largest consumer of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, and Xi has continued to develop coal-fired power plants at home and abroad.
The statement was a carefully calibrated move to demonstrate that China intends to move faster towards a sustainable economy, without revealing many details before a new administration takes over in Washington. “I think China is waiting to see what the Biden administration announces and can do,” said Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They’re trying to signal that they’re going to keep pushing climate action forward at the national level, but they’re also holding back.
With the pandemic postponing annual international climate negotiations for one year, the online summit aimed to push countries to announce more ambitious short-term climate plans. António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general and one of the summit hosts, called on every country to redirect coronavirus recovery funds from fossil fuels to climate-friendly sectors. “We cannot use these resources to lock up policies that burden future generations with a mountain of debt on a shattered planet,” he said, calling on world leaders to declare “a climate emergency”.
“Can anyone still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency?” Secretary General Guterres said in his remarks.
Scientists have repeatedly said that halving global greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade is imperative to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change, including the spread of fires. of forest and flooding of coastal towns. In the days leading up to the summit, a handful of industrialized countries set emission reduction targets for the next decade. The European Union on Friday reached an agreement with its member countries to cut emissions by 55% over the next decade, from 1990 levels. Britain said earlier it would cut emissions of 68% by 2030 and announced on Friday that it would also stop funding overseas fossil fuel projects with taxpayer dollars. Canada has said it will substantially increase its carbon dioxide tax to $ 170 per tonne.
Some smaller countries also made notable announcements at the summit on Saturday. Pakistan has said it will stop building new coal-fired power plants by 2030, noting that it has already put aside plans for some large coal projects. Barbados has said it hopes most homes on the island will have rooftop solar panels and electric cars within the next decade, but said its dangerously high debt level as a result of the pandemic made its climate goals even more difficult. In particular, neither France, host country of the Paris Agreement, nor India, a major source of emissions, have made new commitments. And there have been absences, like Australia, Brazil and the United States.
The outgoing Trump administration has completely withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. reiterated in a statement that he would join the deal on his first day in office and call an international summit within the first 100 days of his administration.
Conservationists had hoped Xi would pledge to cut carbon intensity more sharply, but the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic may have tempered Beijing’s plans. Carbon intensity has traditionally increased with a country’s economy, and therefore any significant reduction requires major rewiring of the economy.
Li Shuo, political analyst at Greenpeace, said China must take swift action to implement what it has promised. He noted that China’s post-pandemic recovery program is “anything but green,” as it continues to grow its coal-fired power plants and promote infrastructure projects that increase pollution. “
“Five years after Paris, China’s progress remains fragile,” he said. “China’s announcement today is a tribute to the Paris Agreement. But there is no time for Champagne. The hard work begins tomorrow. “