China calls for concrete actions for targets close to Cop26 last week

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Chinese officials are skeptical of claims that Cop26 commitments will keep global warming below 2 ° C and want other countries to focus on concrete actions rather than distant goals in the last week of the months. talks.

They estimate that China, the world’s largest emitter, is doing more than you think, including plans to peak coal consumption by 2025 and add more new wind and solar capacity by then. 2030 than the entire installed power system of the United States.

“There has been a lot of criticism of China’s attitude in the media, but a lot of it is based on misunderstanding or misunderstanding,” said Wang Yi, senior advisor to the Chinese delegation.

During the first week of the UN climate talks in Glasgow, China was sometimes described as a reluctant laggard in its efforts to keep global warming at 1.5 ° C. US President Joe Biden said it was a “big mistake” that his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, did not come forward. China’s climate plan disappointed many because it contained no new ambition, and the country was notably absent from alliances to reduce methane emissions and phase out coal.

But Wang, a key consultant on China’s decarbonization strategy and five-year plan, said his country provided a policy framework and a detailed roadmap to reduce emissions, while other countries welcomed the waves. long term promises.

He is skeptical of a recent estimate by the International Energy Agency and others that promises made in Glasgow could limit global warming to 1.8 or 1.9 ° C. “Based on our research, I don’t see any evidence that we can reach 1.9 ° C,” he said. “But whether we are now on the right track for 1.9C or 2.7C, the main point is that we should focus on concrete actions. “

Wang expressed frustration that the scale, depth and detail of China’s climate actions are not being appreciated. “Unfortunately, China cannot change the Chinese narrative,” he said. “To achieve our goals, we described a change in our entire system, not just in the energy sector, but in society and the economy as a whole. No one knows.

China has released five documents detailing its plans to meet its dual target of peaking carbon emissions in 2030 and reaching net zero by 2060. “If you read these reports, you can find all of our actions , but nobody reads everything, ”he said.

As an example, he said the peak carbon and neutrality working guidance document described strict control of the increase in coal consumption during the 14th quinquennium, and then a gradual reduction over the course of the 14th quinquennium. of the following five years. “This means China will experience a peak in coal consumption around 2025, although that’s not a line you’ll see in the document. You have to interpret it and no one [outside China] can do that. “

Likewise, he said the 1 + N government’s political system provides a roadmap of 37 tasks the country needs to undertake through 2060 in areas ranging from legislation and policy to technology and finance. Over the coming year, another 30 documents will be published detailing the actions needed in key sectors, such as construction and transport, as well as in key industries, including steel and chemicals. “No country has released so many documents to support its goals,” he said. “It’s a holistic solution, but nobody knows that. “

China’s two different targets pose very different challenges, he said. “The peak problem is easy. More difficult is to achieve neutrality… We are in transition. Our concern for the future is not that China is too slow, but that it is too fast. “

He said the recent power shortages in China proved how serious it had been in shutting down overcapacity in its coal sector. Every decision had major consequences. “Our coal-fired power plants have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years. If we close them, who will pay for the stranded assets? Who will employ the laid-off workers? “

Decarbonization is already underway. By the end of this decade, the government plans to reach 1,200 GW of wind and solar power, which would exceed the entire installed power capacity of the United States, he said.

The last week of Cop26 will tackle the most controversial issues on the climate agenda. For China, the priority is to finalize the Paris settlement, which will determine how money should flow across borders to support decarbonization, forest protection and other climate actions.

As with previous cops, China will also push rich countries to make larger financial contributions to developing countries, which caused the climate crisis the least but suffer the most.

Wang pointed out that the 2009 pledge of $ 100 billion (£ 73 billion) per year in climate finance has yet to be fulfilled and that much more is needed in the future to accelerate the pace of the climate change. decarbonization.

“China would like more efforts to support developing countries,” he said. “If we are aiming for 1.5C instead of 2C, then there has to be an increase in the funds available for that to happen. “

Much remains to be done, but the negotiating teams have less capacity than in previous Cops. Wang said China’s strict Covid regulations had reduced the entire delegation. “When we return, we will have to isolate ourselves for 21 days,” he said. “So our negotiating delegations are only 50 people this time, compared to several hundred in Paris. “

He said Xi Jinping was not present for the same reason. The fact that the Chinese president only sent a printed statement rather than a video was widely reported in the media as a snub, but Wang said this was incorrect as China had suggested a video message but the hosts Britons felt that this was not allowed.

China has been reluctant to push for a 1.5C target, which would require much more drastic action. Wang acknowledged that small island nations can insist on this ambitious goal, but said it should not come at the expense of other goals. “1.5C is possible, but it would have a cost, social and economic. If we cannot solve these problems equally, especially for developing countries, then that is not a real goal. “

“We are all in the same boat, but in different cabins,” he said. “Some people live in a big space and eat too much. We need balance.

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