Xi reiterates pledges to cut China’s carbon emissions and use of coal

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking at the Climate Leaders' Summit on April 22, 2021. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday (April 22) vowed to keep a cap on highly polluting coal-fired projects and start to wind down the country's longstanding reliance on this energy source in five years.

He also reiterated China's plans for peak carbon emissions before 2030 and to attain net-zero status by 2060.

Addressing the special climate change summit called by United States President Joe Biden, Mr Xi only repeated previous goals China had set, despite expectations of an announcement of new climate change policy.

"We must be committed to green development. Green mountains are gold mountains, to protect the environment is to protect productivity," Mr Xi said.

The summit drew 40 heads of state including Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The two-day virtual event also includes corporate executives, union heads, Pope Francis and Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.

Mr Xi pledged to reduce coal consumption between 2026 and 2030.

The country's energy regulator had said earlier it would aim to reduce the share of coal in its total energy mix to less than 56 per cent this year.

China and the US are the world's two biggest contributors of carbon emissions.

"We need to give full recognition to developing countries' contribution to climate action and accommodate their particular difficulties and concerns," Mr Xi said.

"Developed countries need to increase climate ambition and action and make concrete efforts to help developing countries accelerate the transition to green and low carbon development."

The environment concerns the well being of all countries, Mr Xi said, calling it a "responsibility to future generations".

"We need to look for ways to protect the environment, grow the economy, create jobs and remove poverty all at the same time, so as to deliver social equity and justice in the course of the green transition and increase people's sense of benefit, happiness and security."

Remote video URL

In a late-night press briefing following Mr Xi's speech, Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu, said Mr Xi's participation in the summit shows the importance China attaches to climate change, as well as the country's sense of responsibility as a major country in environmental governance.

"The time span that China has committed to move from carbon peak into carbon neutrality is much shorter than what may take developed countries, (but) China will take extraordinarily hard efforts," Mr Ma said.

He added that China is now making an action plan and is taking actions towards peaking its carbon emissions.

"Support is being given to peaking pioneers from localities, sectors and companies.

"China will strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, and strictly limit the increase in coal consumption over the 14th Five-Year Plan period and phase it down in the 15th Five-Year Plan period," he said.

Addressing the same press conference, special envoy on climate change Xie Zhenhua said his discussion with US counterpart John Kerry were "frank, friendly, in depth and constructive".

"Both sides agreed that our two countries will strengthen cooperation and work with other parties to jointly address the climate crisis, fully implement the principles and provisions of the (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the Paris Agreement, (and) work together to ensure success of COP26," he said, referring to the UN climate summit in November in Glasgow.

Addressing bilateral cooperation on climate, Mr Ma also said that the climate change response should not be used as part of a "political bargain" or as an excuse to establish barriers, adding that both countries shouldered an important responsibility to tackle the crisis.

Find out more about climate change and how it could affect you on the ST microsite here.