China has submitted a revised plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions before the end of this decade, but critics say the country that produces 27 percent of global emissions has not gone further and has shown leadership at a critical time for the planet.
Beijing promised that its carbon dioxide emissions would peak by 2030, and that it would target “carbon neutrality,” or no net CO2 emissions, by 2060, three days before the COP26 summit in Glasgow that starts on sunday.
“As President Xi Jinping reiterated, addressing climate change is not at the request of others, but on China’s own initiative. It is what China must do to achieve sustainable development at home, as well as to fulfill its due obligation to build a community with a shared future for humanity, ”he said in the plan, which was presented to the UN on Thursday.
“China will implement a proactive national strategy on climate change.”
To achieve its goal, China said it will reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by more than 65 percent from the 2005 level.
It will also increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to approximately 25 percent, increase the volume of forest stocks by 6 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level, and raise its total installed capacity for wind and energy. solar power to more than 1.2 billion kilowatts by 2030.
In addition to new solar and wind farms, China also plans to build new hydroelectric dams on the upper reaches of the Yangtze, Mekong and Yellow rivers, and make greater use of new-generation nuclear technology, including small-scale marine reactors.
China also promised to reduce coal consumption between 2025 and 2030. Coal, considered one of the most polluting fossil fuels, accounts for more than 60 percent of China’s energy supply. But with the country’s current energy crisis, it is unclear how it will reduce coal consumption in the short term.
Last month, China announced that it would stop financing new coal power projects abroad, a move seen as a “game changer” given that Beijing is the largest sponsor of coal power projects in the world.
“China has made significant progress in meeting its commitments in an active and pragmatic way,” the plan says.
Climate watchers have been looking closely for signs that China, the world’s largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases, could make more ambitious promises ahead of the Glasgow talks.
In an interview with New Scientist, climate expert Bernice Lee of Chatham House, a British think tank, welcomed China’s promise to peak emissions by 2030, which she described as an “upgrade” from a commitment. above of “reaching the peak of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.” 2030 and making best efforts to peak early ”.
But he added: “It can’t be sweetened, it’s disappointing. The world expected more from China right now. He had lost the opportunity to stop world leadership. “
Joanna Lewis, an expert on China, climate and energy at Georgetown University, also told the Associated Press news agency that, as the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming, China’s revised target was “disappointing” and it did not. offer “anything new”.
Lauri Myllyvirta, a senior analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki, noted that China’s latest pledges fail to answer key questions about the country’s emissions.
“At what level will emissions peak and how fast should they fall after the peak?”
China’s decision on its NDC casts a shadow over the global climate effort. In light of domestic economic uncertainties, the country appears reluctant to adopt stronger short-term goals and missed an opportunity to demonstrate ambition.
– Li Shuo_Greenpeace (@LiShuo_GP) October 28, 2021
Nations participating in the UN climate conference, known as the 26th Conference of the Parties, or COP26, present what are called “nationally determined contributions” that establish emission reduction plans.
Lewis from Georgetown University said it was still possible for China to make additional announcements at the climate summit related to financing renewable energy abroad.
But Li Shuo of Greenpeace East Asia said China’s latest plan “casts a shadow over the global climate effort.”
“In light of domestic economic uncertainties, the country appears reluctant to adopt stronger short-term goals and missed the opportunity to demonstrate ambition,” he wrote on Twitter.
“China’s choice epitomizes the lack of determination to step up action among the major economies,” Li added.
Another obstacle to China’s participation in pushing for climate action is the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping from the meeting.