US, China Reveals Big Steps to Fight Climate Change

The world’s two largest economies and biggest carbon polluters announced separate plans on climate change on Tuesday (21/9).

Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country would no longer fund coal-fired power plants overseas, shocking the world on climate for the second consecutive year at the UN General Assembly. This comes hours after US President Joe Biden announced plans to double financial aid to poor countries to 11.4 billion dollars by 2024, so that countries can switch to cleaner energy and cope with the worsening effects of global warming. This brings rich countries closer to their long-promised but yet to deliver on target of $100 billion a year in climate assistance for developing countries.

“This is really a very influential moment,” said Xinyue Ma, an expert in energy development finance at the Center for Global Development Policy at Boston University.

Smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant in Hejin, Shanxi Province, central China, November 28, 2019.

Smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant in Hejin, Shanxi Province, central China, November 28, 2019.

This could give some momentum to key climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, in less than six weeks, experts say.

In the lead-up to the 2015 Paris climate accord, a joint US-China agreement started successful negotiations. This time, with Sino-U.S. relations being so unpredictable, the two countries issued separate statements, spanning hours and thousands of kilometers apart.

“Today is a really good day for the world,” UK PM Boris Johnson, who is hosting the upcoming climate talks, told US Vice President Kamala Harris.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has issued a call this week for greater efforts to tackle climate change, called the two announcements welcome news. But he said “we still have a long way to go” to make the Glasgow meeting a success.

Depending on when China’s new coal policy takes effect, it could shut down 47 coal-fired power plants it plans to build in 20 developing countries, which run on fuels that release the most heat-trapping gases. That’s roughly the same as a coal-fired power plant from Germany, European climate studies institute E3G said.

“This is important. China is the only significant overseas financier left. This announcement essentially ends all public support for coal globally,” said Joanna Lewis, an expert on climate and China energy at Georgetown University. “This is the announcement that many have been waiting for.”

From 2013 to 2019, data shows that China financed 13 percent of coal-fired power plants built outside of China. China is the biggest public funder, said Kevin Gallagher of Boston University. Japan and South Korea announced earlier this year that they would also exit the coal financing business. [uh/lt]

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