Don't be so quick to doubt China's climate pledge

Shifting away from a fossil-fuel economy is like turning a giant ship: it must overcome significant inertia before generating sufficient momentum in the other direction. And China’s ship is still turning.

A coal-powered power station in Datong, China’s northern Shanxi province. PHOTO: AFP
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"Disappointing." "A shadow on the global climate effort." Even before the global climate summit in Glasgow got under way last week, environmental advocates were quick to point fingers at China's seemingly lacklustre "new" climate pledge as a harbinger of a doomed outcome for the event.

Since China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, some climate watchers had hoped Beijing would make a big splash with its updated targets to fight climate change - like providing an earlier-than-2030 peak emissions year or a hard cap on coal consumption. But the pledge only consolidated the elements of what President Xi Jinping announced in his landmark carbon-neutrality promise last year and immediately following.

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