China will not build any more coal plants abroad, Xi Jinping says

‘It is clear the writing is on the wall for coal power,’ says Cop26 president Alok Sharma

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Tuesday 21 September 2021 23:15 BST
Xi Jinping announces China will no longer invest in oversea coal

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Xi Jinping announced on Tuesday that China will stop building coal plants abroad, a significant step in reducing global emissions from the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

In a pre-taped address to the 76th United Nations General Assembly, the Chinese president said: “China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low carbon energy and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”

President Xi also said that China will “strive” to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

His remarks came as global leaders ramp up their commitments to tackle the ever-worsening climate crisis ahead of the UN summit, Cop26, in the UK in a matter of weeks.

The US also made a new commitment ahead of the consequential event in Glasgow. President Joe Biden said during his UNGA speech on Tuesday that he was doubling the US’s pledge to a global climate finance fund to help developing nations cope with the impacts of the crisis.

The new pledge means that the US will contribute $11.4billion annually by 2024. The US and other wealthy nations agreed a decade ago to provide $100bn per year by 2020 for climate action in countries which are facing extreme impacts from global heating but have historically contributed low levels of emissions.

China is the largest public financier of overseas coal plants. Last week an alliance of 35 NGOs pressed the Bank of China to end the financing of such projects outside China. The majority of plants are being built in Bangladesh and countries in East Africa, according to the Global Coal Public Finance Tracker.

The bank has pumped more than $35billion into coal plants since the 2015 Paris Agreement was signed with the aim to reduce emissions and curb global temperature rise to 1.5C. China continues to invest in domestic coal plants.

The announcement garnered praise from political figures and policy experts.

Alok Sharma, the UK’s Cop26 president, tweeted: “It is clear the writing is on the wall for coal power. I welcome President Xi’s commitment to stop building new coal projects abroad - a key topic of my discussions during my visit to China. At COP26, we must consign coal to history.”

In a statement Dr Kevin P Gallagher, director of the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, said:China deserves great praise for pledging to stop building coal plants overseas — the first developing country to make such a pledge and the last of the major public financiers of overseas coal to do so.

“Now that the world’s major governments have led by example and banned overseas coal plants, it is time for the private sector — which finances 87 percent of overseas coal — to follow suit. We will not meet our global climate and development goals if the private sector continues to finance overseas coal while leading governments have stopped.”

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