China, the world’s top emitter by far, is not offering any new commitments to reduce carbon pollution before a major United Nations climate conference starting Sunday.
China submitted a pledge, known as a Nationally Determined Contribution, to the U.N on Thursday, vowing to stop increasing its carbon emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. President Xi Jinping already announced those goals at the end of last year, but this formalizes the commitments under the Paris Climate Accords.
But China fell short of expectations from the United States and other rich countries that have asked Beijing to reduce its emissions earlier this decade with a new specific date. By not doing so, China is saying its emissions will continue to rise, making it more difficult for the world to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.
“I am sure the U.S. and other countries were hoping to see something new from China going into COP26 [the U.N. climate conference],” said Joanna Lewis, an associate professor at Georgetown University teaching energy and environment with a focus on China. “This signals China is standing firm on goals it previously announced."
During a July speech in London, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry called on China to commit to “sector-specific near-term actions” that would enable “earlier peaking” and the “possibility of rapid reductions afterwards.”
Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, noted China’s pledge also leaves unanswered how quickly its emissions should fall after its peak, a key question for a country with a growing economy.
China is currently grappling with coal shortages, surging prices, and power outages as the economy and energy demand ramps up from the pandemic, leading officials to encourage more coal development. It is already the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, although it recently promised to end its support of overseas coal projects.
But Lewis said the current energy crisis is not the decisive factor in China’s decision not to boost its emissions goals.
The country is ignoring pleas by President Joe Biden and other world leaders to commit to specific near-term actions that would enable earlier peaking because it is skeptical over the U.S.’s lack of progress in passing domestic legislation to address climate change, she said.
Biden has committed the U.S. to cut its emission in half by 2030, but he is struggling to pass his Build Back Better spending bill in Congress to invest $555 billion in climate and clean energy measures.
“The Chinese government is watching deliberations in Congress very closely,” Lewis said. “It’s unfortunate Biden wasn’t able to come to COP with a shiny new infrastructure bill with a huge climate component.”
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Original Author: Josh Siegel
Original Location: China avoids new emissions pledge in blow to hopes for climate conference