China’s new climate plan criticised as ‘unambitious’

Beijing’s updated efforts to cut emissions of planet-heating gases echoes past pledges

The UN on Thursday published China’s latest emissions-cutting plan, which included renewed pledges to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 but few new proposals from the world’s biggest polluter.

Beijing’s new submission to the UN said that carbon emissions would level and start falling before 2030 — part of a collective effort to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

The 74-page document, published on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change website, largely repeated promises made previously by President Xi Jinping.

It was published days before leaders head to the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, which begin on Sunday, to maintain commitments made in the 2015 Paris climate deal.

Under that agreement, countries must submit renewed emissions-cutting pledges — known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs — every five years.

China is responsible for more than a quarter of all mankind’s emissions and has been criticised for scrapping coal-fired power stations too slowly.

The country's renewed NDC states that China will raise its share of cleaner fuels in primary consumption to 25 per cent, up from the 20 per cent previously pledged.

It also plans to grow more forests compared with 2005 levels and boost wind and solar power generation.

But campaigners say revived NDCs from China and other big emitters fall far short of what is needed to keep global temperature rises below the benchmark figure of 1.5°C.

British politician Matthew Pennycook said China’s revised plan was “deeply disappointing and will cast a shadow over Cop26”.

Greenpeace campaigner Li Shuo said Beijing had scaled back ambitions due to “domestic economic uncertainties”.

“The country appears hesitant to embrace stronger near-term targets and missed an opportunity to demonstrate ambition,” he wrote on Twitter.

The UN says emissions of planet-heating gases must be nearly halved by 2030 to keep the 1.5°C target within reach.

The UN’s Emissions Gap report this week revealed that the latest NDCs put Earth on course to warm by 2.7°C this century — raising the risk of fires, droughts, storms and other extreme weather events.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq said China’s updated NDC echoed “what China had previously indicated”.

“All countries, with G20 in the lead, will need to continuously update their NDCs — not every five years, but every year, until we are on track for 1.5°C,” Mr Haq told The National.

The Cop26 summit, hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, kicks off in Glasgow on October 31. Britain has cast the meet as the last big chance for countries to commit to steps to slow rising temperatures.

A UN report on Thursday accused the G20 of “dragging its feet” on fighting climate change as most of the world’s poorest countries have already submitted plans.

Updated: October 28th 2021, 6:55 PM