Cop26 chief: China's climate choices will 'shape our shared future'

Alok Sharma says it remains to be seen how quickly Beijing's plans become reality

Britain's Business Secretary Alok Sharma arrives at Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in central London on September 22, 2020 to attend the weekly meeting of the cabinet.  The UK government will on Tuesday announce new measures to curb rising coronavirus cases across England, hours after upgrading the virus alert level with top advisers warning of a surging death toll within two months without immediate action. / AFP / POOL / Leon Neal
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China has encouraging plans to tackle climate change but it remains to be seen how quickly they are put into action, the head of the Cop26 summit has said.

Alok Sharma lobbied Beijing to move faster on a two-day visit to China which his office described as constructive.

He said China’s energy policies — especially its use of coal — would shape humanity’s future as rich countries try to phase out the fuel.

China is the world’s biggest coal user. Discussions over coal use have been a sore point in global climate talks leading up to November’s summit in Glasgow.

Mr Sharma's office said he had used talks with China's top climate envoy Xie Zhenhua to highlight the dire warnings issued by scientists in a landmark report on climate change.

The head of the UN described the report as a “code red for humanity” after scientists described a rapidly closing window to fend off disaster.

On his trip to Tianjin, Mr Sharma cited the report as “evidence that all countries needed to pick up the pace and take urgent action,” officials said.

China plans to become carbon neutral by 2060 under plans approved by President Xi Jinping. Britain’s target date is 2050.

“China’s pledge to tackle climate change as a shared mission for humanity is encouraging,” Mr Sharma said. “The choices that China makes, on their energy mix, and on coal specifically, will shape our shared future.

“The question that remains is how fast they put these into action, along with other major emitters. I look forward to more detailed plans being published setting out how China’s targets will be met.”

China has yet to submit an updated climate plan, known as a nationally determined contribution (NDC), which is expected from all countries before Cop26.

The UN said last month that progress on these was far from satisfactory, with four in 10 countries missing an end-of-July deadline to reveal their plans.

Mr Sharma told Beijing that it could show global leadership by scrapping funding for overseas coal plants. He said China could build on its position as the largest domestic market for renewable cars.

G7 countries promised at their June summit to accelerate efforts to move away from coal. Britain is gathering pledges on the subject before Cop26.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries must strive to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The preferred target is 1.5°C. Last month’s report said the half-a-degree difference would have far more severe effects on the planet.

Updated: September 08, 2021, 4:00 PM