China’s Adds Teeth to Climate Commitments

September 21, 2021

Above: Air Pollution in China has become so critical as to be politically destabilizing.

New York Times:

President Xi Jinping of China told to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that his country would stop promoting the growth of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel overseas, in a major step to address climate change: China, he said, “will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”

Mr. Xi’s announcement, in prerecorded remarks, was a surprise move designed to lift his country’s standing on global efforts to rein in global greenhouse emissions.

China currently produces the largest share of emissions. It is by far the biggest producer of coal domestically, and by far the largest financier of coal-fired power plants abroad, with an enormous 40 gigawatts of coal power planned.

A hint of China’s shift came earlier this year. For the first time in several years, China did not fund new coal projects as part of its global development undertaking, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, in the first six months of 2021.

Chinese coal projects have faced considerable pushback in countries like Bangladesh, Kenya and Vietnam, mainly by civil society groups.

The United States has repeatedly called out China for helping to build coal plants abroad. There was no immediate reaction from the White House on Tuesday.

What Mr. Xi did not say at the General Assembly was anything about China’s coal plants at home. It is building the largest fleet of coal-fired power plants within its borders, and most of its electricity still comes from coal. Nor did Mr. Xi make any new announcements about its plans to rein in emissions by 2030, beyond repeating his pledge to reach peak emissions before the end of this decade. That is nowhere near what is necessary to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which the world faces a far greater likelihood of devastating climate consequences.

“This is an important step by the world’s biggest provider of overseas coal finance,” said Simon Steill, the environment minister of Grenada, which is among the world’s smallest countries most susceptible to the harm caused by climate change. “We look forward to seeing commensurate action domestically on coal.”

Interestingly, Bloomberg had this item this morning –


Jiangsu — a Chinese province with an economy as large as Canada’s — is curbing electricity supplies to industry as Beijing pressures it to reduce energy usage to cut emissions.

Many factories in the key manufacturing hub north of Shanghai have cut or even halted their operations, according to more than a dozen company executives interviewed by Bloomberg, as well as local media and researchers. The curbs, which are on an unprecedented scale, started in the second week of September and will last at least through the end of the month, they said. 

The measures — aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the long run — came after the provincial government was urged by Beijing to make more efforts to meet its environmental targets for this year, said the executives who asked not to be identified as the matter is private. 

The central government made each province create an energy intensity target as part of President Xi Jinping’s plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. Jiangsu missed its goal, so is being ordered to reduce power use as much as possible. It was among several provinces that failed to lower energy intensity and the total amount of power consumed in the first half of the year, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, said in a statement last month. 

The curbs, which also include reducing power use in commercial venues and public utilities in some cities, come as Chinese local governments try and balance Beijing’s environmental targets and social campaigns while maintaining economic growth. Xi is looking to cut carbon emissions, ensure blue skies ahead of the Winter Olympics, and has also advocated “Common Prosperity” as a long-term agenda to reduce inequality.

6 Responses to “China’s Adds Teeth to Climate Commitments”

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I think the multiple major dam failures and the July rain bomb in Zengzhou, Henan—and the bills for them—have made an impression on Emperor Xi.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Of course people at the WAPO want to blame China. It’s about time their conscience started to bother them after decades of publishing lying right wing op-eds about climate. They haven’t gotten quite as far as actually admitting their “mistakes” but now that no one is buying the climate denial any more, they are moving on to the next level of defense in the right wing agenda–blaming China as a way of scapegoating it & preparing the way for whatever the delusional oligarchic duopoly thinks it’s going to accomplish with a war stance toward the (distant) 2nd most powerful military country of 1.4 billion.

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    China’s coal problem isn’t just the newfangled greenhouse gas concern, but the more traditional pollution problems of air pollution, public health and quality of life. Their diesel truck fleets that supply their great cities have little or no emission controls (high PM2.5) and have long been a greater pollution problem than all of the ICE passenger cars.

    They will probably get more benefit from shutting down a coal plant than we get in the US and Europe for shutting down a “clean coal” power plant which has been regulated for decades.

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