The United Nations – Chinese leader Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that China will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad, using his speech at the United Nations General Assembly to add to commitments made to tackle climate change.
Xi didn’t provide any details, but depending on how the policy is implemented, the move could significantly limit funding for coal-fired power plants in developing countries.
China has come under heavy diplomatic pressure to end its funding of coal overseas, as this could make it easier for the world to stay on course to meet the Paris climate agreement goals of reduce carbon emissions.
Xi’s announcement followed similar steps taken by South Korea and Japan earlier this year, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Climate Envoy John Kerry have urged China to follow the example of its Asian counterparts.
“China will step up support to other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad,” Xi said in his video speech. pre-recorded at the annual UN meeting, during which he highlighted China’s peaceful intentions in international relations.
Kerry quickly praised Xi’s announcement, calling it a “great contribution” and a good start to the efforts needed to be successful at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 October 31-November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
“We’ve been talking to China for some time about this. And I am absolutely delighted to hear that President Xi has made this important decision, ”Kerry said in a statement.
Alok Sharma, the head of COP26, also welcomed the announcement.
“It is clear that the writing is on the wall for coal power. I welcome President Xi’s commitment to stop building new coal projects abroad – a key topic of my discussions during my visit to China, ”he said on Twitter.
Xi spoke after US President Joe Biden gave his first speech at the United Nations. Biden has charted a new era of vigorous competition without a new Cold War despite China’s ascendancy.
In a measured speech, Xi made no direct mention of China’s often bitter rivalry with the United States, where the Biden administration has made climate change mitigation policies a top priority and sought to cooperate. with Beijing.
Xi reiterated last year’s promises that China will reach peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.
Some pundits have criticized the targets as not ambitious enough, although they did allow Beijing to claim a high moral stance on the issue after then-US President Donald Trump called climate change a “hoax “, withdrew from the Paris climate agreement.
China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, still relies heavily on coal for its domestic energy needs.
One of Biden’s first moves after taking office in January was to reaffirm US leadership on climate change and bring the US back to the Paris Agreement.
“China was the last man standing. If there is no public funding for coal from China, there is little or no global expansion of coal, ”said Justin Guay, director of global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project, an advocacy group. for a global transition from coal and fossil fuels, on Xi’s promise.
Guterres praised both Xi’s decision on coal and Biden’s pledge to work with the US Congress to double funds by 2024 to $ 11.4 billion per year to help developing countries do so. in the face of climate change.
“Accelerating the global phase-out of coal is the most important step in keeping the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree target within reach,” he said in a statement.
Hours earlier, without mentioning China by name, Biden said democracy would not be defeated by authoritarianism.
“The future will belong to those who give their people the ability to breathe freely, not those who seek to suffocate their people with an iron fist,” Biden said.
“We must all call out and condemn the targeting and oppression of racial, ethnic and religious minorities, whether it happens in Xinjiang or northern Ethiopia, or anywhere in the world,” he said. he said, referring to the western region of China where authorities have created a network of internment camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. China denies allegations of abuse in Xinjiang.
Ties between the world’s two largest economies are languishing at their lowest in decades on issues ranging from human rights to transparency about the origins of COVID-19.
Xi said there was a need to “reject the practice of forming small circles or zero-sum games,” a possible reference to the Quad forum led by the United States of Australia, India, Japan and the United States. of the United States seen as a way to push back China’s rise to power, which is due to meet at the leadership level in Washington on Friday.
China last week warned of an intensification of the arms race in the region after the United States, Britain and Australia announced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance, dubbed AUKUS, which will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear powered submarines.
Biden’s image was shaken by the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, but he said ending the U.S. ‘longest war would allow the U.S. to refocus its resources and focus on it. ‘Indo-Pacific.
“External military intervention and the so-called democratic transformation bring nothing but harm,” Xi said, in an apparent blow to the United States.
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