Energy & Environment

China offers no notable new environmental goals ahead of UN climate summit

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China on Thursday released a white paper outlining the country’s policies and goals for responding to climate change but containing few new objectives or initiatives.

The country formally announced its goals of peaking carbon dioxide emissions, which are produced by burning fossil fuels, by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.

The announcement comes as President Biden and nearly 200 other nations prepare to meet for the UN climate summit known as COP26. The conference is scheduled to begin on Sunday and participating nations, including China, were asked to submit “nationally determined contributions” prior to the summit regarding how they planned to reduce emissions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is not expected to attend the event in person.

The document, entitled “China’s Achievements, New Goals and New Measures for Nationally Determined Contributions,” said that the country’s move to deal with climate change “is not at others’ request but on China’s own initiative.”

“It is what China needs to do to achieve sustainable development at home, as well as to fulfill its due obligation to build a community with a shared future for mankind,” the document added.

China’s announcement included goals that were previously mentioned in  Xi’s speeches and domestic policy documents but did not include any significant new environmental milestones that the country aimed to achieve.

“It’s not surprising, but it is disappointing that there wasn’t anything new,” Georgetown University’s Joanna Lewis, who is an expert in China, climate and energy, told The Associated Press of the plan. 

Experts also said that the announcement left some critical questions unanswered. While the country said it would take initiative to increase its wind and solar power abilities, the document made no mention of what level carbon emissions would peak at and how quickly they could be expected to fall, the AP noted.

Lewis also told the AP that China could make more announcements about climate-related plans at the summit, especially in terms of financing overseas renewable energy efforts.  

At present, China emits more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming than any country in the world. 

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