China submits new climate plan days before COP26 summit

Patrick Galey - Agence France-Presse
China submits new climate plan days before COP26 summit
(FILES) This file photo taken on September 28, 2021 shows a man riding a bicycle on a promenade along the Huangpu river across from the Wujing Coal-Electricity Power Station in Shanghai. Asia-Pacific accounts for about three-quarters of global coal consumption -- even as the region struggles with the environmental and public health impacts of global warming, from deadly levels of air pollution in India to extreme heatwaves and wildfires in Australia.
AFP / Hector Retamal

PARIS, France — China on Thursday submitted a renewed emissions cutting plan that promised to peak carbon pollution before 2030 but which experts said stopped short of the radical decarbonisation required of the world's largest polluter.

Beijing's new submission to the United Nations, just days before the COP26 climate summit, confirmed its goal to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 and slash its emissions intensity — the amount of emissions per unit of economic output — by more than 65 percent.

Analysts said these amounted to minor improvements on China's existing plan and were far from sufficient from the country responsible for more than a quarter of all carbon pollution.

As part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, all countries agreed to slash emissions in order to limit temperature rises to "well below" two degrees Celsius and to strive for a safer 1.5-C warming cap.

Under the accord's "ratchet" mechanism, signatories agreed to submit new and more ambitious emissions cutting plans — known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs — every five years.

Last year, President Xi Jinping indicated that China would achieve carbon neutrality around 2060 and peak emissions around 2030.

But China had been a major NDC holdout, missing several submission deadlines during the year-long delay of COP26 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

It was hoped its new plan could build momentum ahead of the summit in Glasgow, which begins on Sunday with world leaders seeking to map out a path to avoid climate disaster.

According to the document, published on the UN's climate change website, China will increase its share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 25 percent, up from the 20 percent previously pledged. 

It also plans to increase its forest stock by six billion cubic metres compared with 2005 levels and "bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kilowatts by 2030".

However it was not immediately clear how Beijing plans to draw down its emissions in line with what science says is needed to avoid catastrophic levels of heating this century.

'Casts a shadow'

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said China's commitment to net-zero emissions before 2060 was a "very positive development".

"Now we need to work with China in trying to bring the 2060 as early as possible, and what we are doing with many countries is to say: that is very good but we need clear plans now," she told a press briefing.

Li Shuo, an analyst with Greenpeace Asia, said China's new NDC "missed an opportunity to demonstrate ambition".

"China's decision on its NDC casts a shadow on the global climate effort," he tweeted.

"The planet can't afford this being the last word. Beijing needs to come up with stronger implementation plans to ensure an emission peak before 2025."

China has been accused of sidestepping calls to stop building new coal-fired power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution.

Nick Mabey, chief executive of the E3G environmental think tank, said China's new emissions plan was virtually "unchanged" from previous promises.

"This lowers other countries' confidence in the delivery of China's deep decarbonisation pathway," he said. 

The UN says greenhouse gas emissions must be cut nearly in half by 2030 to keep 1.5C within reach.

This week it said countries' latest pledges put Earth on course to warm 2.7C this century.

Its Emissions Gap report also called on countries to start slashing emissions immediately and to align their net-zero plans with the 1.5C pathway. 

More than 120 heads of state and government will travel to Glasgow to kick off the 13-day meeting, including US President Joe Biden, India's Narendra Modi, French leader Emmanuel Macron and Australia's Scott Morrison. 

Xi has not left China during the pandemic and is unlikely to attend.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 20, 2023 - 4:51pm

At current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, Earth could warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) as early as 2030, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change says in a landmark report.

"Global warming is likely to reach 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate," the report concluded with "high confidence."

Earth's surface has warmed one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit)—enough to lift oceans and unleash a crescendo of deadly storms, floods and droughts—and is on track toward an unliveable 3C or 4C rise.

August 20, 2023 - 4:51pm

Japan issued heatstroke alerts Sunday to tens of millions of people as near-record high temperatures scorched swathes of the country, while torrential rain pummelled other regions.

National broadcaster NHK warned viewers that the heat was at life-threatening levels, as temperatures soared to nearly 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in some places, including the capital Tokyo.

"Please stay hydrated and use air conditioners appropriately, and refrain from outings that seem difficult," a news presenter said. — AFP

June 17, 2022 - 8:01am

Developing countries voice "disappointment" as climate talks in Germany ended Thursday with frustrations flaring over a lack of momentum on helping vulnerable nations cope with the impacts of warming.

With world attention drawn towards other challenges, notably Russia's invasion of Ukraine and spiralling food, energy and economic crises, the technical discussions meant to lay the groundwork for key United Nations negotiations later this year were mired in disagreements.

Representatives of nearly 200 countries arrived in the city of Bonn buoyed by the ambition displayed six months ago during the UN COP26 negotiations in Glasgow, where countries rallied around the urgent threat of climate change.

"After that sense of emergency had been established, probably the expectations were very high," says Preety Bhandari, senior climate adviser at the World Resources Institute. — AFP

June 6, 2022 - 11:02am

Negotiators from almost 200 countries will meet in Bonn Monday for climate talks tasked with reigniting momentum on tackling global warming, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine overshadows the threat from rising emissions.

The conference will set the stage for a fresh round of major United Nations talks later this year in Egypt.

It will also be a chance to test the resolve of nations facing a catalogue of crises, including escalating climate impacts, geopolitical tensions, bloodshed in Ukraine and the threat of a devastating global food crisis.

"Climate change is not an agenda we can afford to push back on our global schedule," said outgoing UN climate change chief Patricia Espinosa ahead of the meeting. — AFP

May 24, 2022 - 8:15am

Nations in the G20 group of major economies have yet to strengthen greenhouse gas reduction goals despite agreeing to revisit their plans ahead of critical UN climate talks in November, according to an analysis by leading research NGOs seen exclusively by AFP.

At the Glasgow COP26 climate summit last year countries pledged to review inadequate plans for cutting carbon pollution this decade ahead of the COP27 conference.

Two G20 nations — India and Turkey — have failed to update their original carbon cutting plans submitted in 2015, as required under the Paris Agreement. 

Neither has non-G20 member Egypt, which will host the COP27 climate summit in November. — AFP

May 18, 2022 - 4:04pm

Four key climate change indicators all set new record highs in 2021, the United Nations said Wednesday, warning that the global energy system was driving humanity towards catastrophe.

Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification all set new records last year, the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its "State of the Global Climate in 2021" report.

"The global energy system is broken and bringing us ever closer to climate catastrophe," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said of the findings. — AFP

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