Delegates at the climate talks in Katowice, Poland were hoping a new pledge from China would usher in a new level of ambition at the talks
Tragicomic, is how many people have described the “New Climate Pledge” by China, which offered to “cut emissions to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 and reduce emissions intensity per unit of GDP by 40-45% by 2030.”
China pledges to stop emmitting greenhouse gases to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 Read more
In Katowice, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases promised to cut its emissions by 40% below the 2005 level by 2030. In comparison, the EU target is to cut its emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and possibly a bit more.
The language in China’s offer was strong:
UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
China hopes to make a major contribution to an overall global target of reducing emissions by at least 45% below 1990 levels by 2030.
The parmesan for building the trust and confidence of developing countries to join the Paris Agreement had to be more than words. In a ceremony for the Global Covenant of Mayors, which brings together 80% of all Mayors in the world, China’s president Xi Jinping had made his own pledge to join the Paris Agreement, stating that China will do its part to achieve the ambitious goal of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5C – not only to cap its emissions, but also to make emissions-cutting sustainable. The New Climate Pledge reflects China’s close engagement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw last year, where it submitted a “commitment framework” for 2020, showing that China is still committed to the Paris Agreement. But so is the EU and other developed countries, as Germany has just done.
In Katowice, China made a real commitment to reduce emissions and harm to communities, especially in its hinterland. The language needed to be translated into action, i.e. concrete measures.
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Chinese negotiators felt the need to walk back this ambitious pledge on the eve of the COP, arguing that China already has the means to achieve its ambitious 2030 target. China has talked of closing coal-fired power plants, lifting millions of people out of poverty through urbanisation, and providing universal access to electricity through new renewable energy and energy-saving measures to replace fossil fuels.
How China achieves this depends on a change in China’s energy and investment policies, as well as market-based mechanisms.
Lifting China’s 1.3 billion people out of poverty is not an easy task, but it is possible. And instead of focusing only on greenhouse gas cuts, it’s much more important to improve the lives of the poorest people by creating the right economic climate for their enterprises, reducing energy, cost and pollution, and opening up investment opportunities.
The Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz stressed this point in a commentary published by Bloomberg.
“You don’t have to stop greenhouse gas emissions entirely to make much progress toward the 2030 Paris goal. The economic opportunity to lift billions out of poverty may be worth more than the risks.”
My personal view is that China can make a major difference at Katowice.
But to make the New Climate Pledge come to life, China needs more.
One tangible way to do this is by committing to better contribute to global mitigation through providing targets and financing for reduced emissions in developing countries. That is urgently needed, as this is where most of the world’s climate is being emitted.