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Selasa, 21 September 2021

Xi says China will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad - Sydney Morning Herald

By Nick O'Malley

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced during a United Nations address that his country will no longer fund coal-fired power plants through China’s vast Belt and Road infrastructure project, signalling momentum in an international movement to scrap the use of coal for electricity.

In a separate speech, US President Joe Biden announced a doubling of financial aid to poorer nations so they could switch to cleaner energy and cope with global warming’s worsening impacts.

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a pre-recorded address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, on Tuesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a pre-recorded address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, on Tuesday.Credit:Bloomberg

Depending on when China’s new coal policy goes into effect, it could shutter 47 planned power plants in 20 developing countries that use the fuel that emits the most heat-trapping gases, about the same amount of coal power as from Germany, according to the European climate think-tank E3G.

Xi provided no details in his announcement, but his country has been under heavy diplomatic pressure to put an end to its coal financing overseas.

“China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad,” Xi said in his pre-recorded video address at the annual UN gathering.

Xi repeated pledges from last year that China would achieve a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060.

Earlier this month US chief climate envoy John Kerry visited India, the world’s second-largest coal consumer, for climate talks hoping to ramp up support for a net-zero goal and a ramp-up of clean energy before key COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow in November.

Observers have been hoping for significant announcements regarding coal use and climate targets from China before the talks, but were concerned they had been derailed by increasing tension between China and US.

“The US hopes to make climate co-operation an ‘oasis’ of China-US relation but if the ‘oasis’ is surrounded by ‘desert’, the ‘oasis’ will sooner or later become desert,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly told Kerry during a meeting in China at the beginning of September.

International pressure to phase out coal power has been rapidly increasing, with the issue being raised not only by Kerry but also COP26 president Alok Sharma and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as during G7 and G20 meetings.

Proponents of the phase-out want to see wealthy nations abandon coal power by 2030 and developing nations abandon it by 2040. The US government co-sponsored an OECD proposal to end export credit financing for coal power projects on September 14.

China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, is still heavily reliant on coal for its domestic energy needs.

“It’s a big deal. China was the only significant funder of overseas coal left. This announcement essentially ends all public support for coal globally,” said Joanna Lewis, an expert on China, energy and climate at Georgetown University. “This is the announcement many have been waiting for.”

The potential impact on the global coal industry is not yet clear.

China has not committed to winding back its own coal power plants.

China has not committed to winding back its own coal power plants. Credit:AP

Byford Tsang, a policy analyst for E3G, said that while this represents a big step, it is not quite a death knell for coal. That’s because China last year added as much new coal power domestically as was just cancelled abroad, he said. But Lewis said official data from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce showed no new coal plants financed abroad in the first half of 2021.

What will really matter is when China stops building new coal plants at home and shutters old ones, Tsang said. That will be part of a push in the G20 meetings in Italy next month, he said.

“China was the last man standing. If there’s no public finance of coal from China, there’s little to no global coal expansion,” Justin Guay, director of global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project, a group advocating for a global transition from coal and fossil fuels, said of Xi’s promise.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed both Xi’s move on coal and Biden’s pledge to work with the US Congress to double funds by 2024 to $US11.4 billion ($15.7 billion) per year to help developing nations deal with climate change.

“Accelerating the global phase-out of coal is the single most important step to keep the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement within reach”, he said in a statement.

There was no immediate response from the White House or Kerry’s office.

Hours earlier, without mentioning China by name, Biden said democracy would not be defeated by authoritarianism.

“The future will belong to those who give their people the ability to breathe free, not those who seek to suffocate their people with an iron hand,” Biden said.

“We all must call out and condemn the targeting and oppression of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, whether it occurs in Xinjiang or northern Ethiopia, or anywhere in the world,” he said, referring to the western Chinese region where authorities have created a network of internment camps for Uighurs and other Muslim minorities. China denies allegations of abuses in Xinjiang.

Ties between the world’s two biggest economies have been languishing at their lowest point in decades over issues ranging from human rights to transparency over the origins of COVID-19.

Xi said there was a need to “reject the practice of forming small circles or zero-sum games,” a possible reference to the US-led Quad forum of Australia, India, Japan and the United States seen as a means of pushing back against China’s rise, which is due to meet at leader level in Washington on Friday.

China last week warned of an intensified arms race in the region after the United States, Britain and Australia announced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance, dubbed AUKUS, which will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

with Reuters, AP

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2021-09-21 22:56:57Z
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