Climate change: China does ‘not need UK actions to encourage’ it to be more ambitious in tackling crisis

A coal-fired power plant in eastern China's Jiangsu province. Pic: AP

2021-10-19 19:16:00

China’s special envoy on climate has told Sky News that his nation does “not need the actions taken by the UK to encourage” Beijing to be more ambitious in tackling climate change.

As the world’s largest polluter, China has pledged to get to peak carbon emissions before 2030, and to reach net zero by 2060.

Sky News asked China’s special envoy on climate, Xie Zhenhua, whether the UK’s new wide-ranging net zero strategy might prompt the Chinese government to commit to a specific earlier target date for both.

China’s special envoy on climate Xie Zhenhua
China’s special envoy on climate, Xie Zhenhua

Speaking at a news conference in Beijing, he said: “We do not need the actions taken by the UK to encourage us.

“Besides that, China also set up a very clear roadmap together with clear timeframe policy measures and actual visible actions to support its double targets.

“All these actions are well designed and visible to ensure we can achieve our goals before 2030 even.”

Minister of ecology and environment, Zhao Yingmin, appeared to deliver a thinly-veiled swipe at the feasibility of the UK’s ambition to reduce carbon emissions by 68% by 2030 and to get to net zero by 2050.

He told Sky News: “China… always honours its words by real deeds so that we can even come better than what we already promised.”

He added: “We simply hope that all developed countries can do the same by honouring words with actual actions.”

China's minister of ecology and environment Zhao Yingmin
China’s minister of ecology and environment, Zhao Yingmin

Their comments will disappoint the British government which has released an avalanche of policy, not only aimed at hitting ambitious carbon targets, but also at demonstrating leadership ahead of the crucial UN climate summit COP26, which is being held in Glasgow and starts at the end of the month.

Speaking to the House of Commons as he announced the government strategy, energy minister Greg Hands MP explicitly said he hoped it would encourage other nations to be more ambitious.

But minister Zhao Yingmin seemed to dismiss the idea that China was prepared to commit, at the moment, to do any more than it already has.

He said: “China will… make its best efforts to achieve the double targets before 2030 and 2060.

“This is an arduous task in front of China because we need the biggest drop, biggest cut in carbon intensity compared with the other countries in the shortest time ever to step from carbon peaking to carbon neutrality.

“This is the best possible effort we can make, given the current development stage and the capacity of China.”

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It has been reported that China’s President Xi Jinping is unlikely to attend COP26 in person.

The stage is now set for a difficult climate summit if China also continues to be unwilling to make further concessions on carbon reduction or on the domestic phase out of coal.

US special envoy on climate change, John Kerry, has said that hitting global carbon targets depends on these things happening.

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