China’s pledge to kick the coal habit comes at a critical moment for the planet | Sam Geall

China’s pledge to kick the coal habit comes at a critical moment for the planet | Sam Geall

The devil will be in the details, but ending investments in overseas coal shows Beijing takes the climate crisis seriously

  • Sam Geall is CEO of China Dialogue and associate fellow at Chatham House

“China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy,” said China’s president, Xi Jinping, at the United Nations on Tuesday, “and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”

It was a short, ambiguous and not entirely unexpected sentence, but it came at a critical moment. UN-led climate talks in November at Cop26 in Glasgow will represent the first opportunity since the signing of the 2015 UN Paris agreement for countries to ratchet up the commitments in their pledges, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Countries need to increase their NDC ambitions by five times if the world is to reach the goal of not warming by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Xi’s announcement, which effectively amounts to the end of international public financing for coal power, seems to match the ambition necessary for this moment.

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