China's new climate plan promises to peak CO2 emissions before 2030

China accounts for 27% of global emissions. China's newly announced climate plan is an important step ahead of the COP26 climate conference.
A floating solar farm in Hefei (China Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Image

China pledged to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent before 2030 in an update of its climate change plans, just three days before the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Critics say China missed an opportunity to lead global climate change leadership and go further.

The United Nations has accepted the revised plan, also known as a nationally determined contributor, which formalises several promises made earlier in the year by Xi Jinping, Chinese president, and again in 2020.

China is now committed to reducing its carbon intensity by limiting its emissions prior to 2030 rather than the 2030 deadline as promised. China also promises to reduce its carbon intensity, which is the measure of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic products, by 65% by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels. This is the highest point of the 60-65 per cent range that China proposed in an earlier proposal.


Chatham House, UK think tank Bernice Lee says that it is disappointing. At this stage, the world expected more from China. It missed an opportunity to slow global leadership. She says that China's promise to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 is a positive. This is an upgrade to the earlier pledge to peak carbon dioxide emissions around 2030.

It also promises to reduce China's use of fossil fuels by 75% by 2030. This is an improvement on the 80 percent promise. It confirms two previous announcements regarding coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, which makes up more than 60% of China's energy supply. The first is to reduce coal consumption by 2025 and 2030. The second is not to finance any new coal power projects overseas, which is a crucial commitment considering that China is the largest funder of such schemes.

The new scheme is a repetition of China's previous promises, and not a surprise or a big increase in ambition.

China Dialogue, a non profit organisation, Isabel Hilton stated that expectations for China's new climate plan are low. This is because China's narrative in the ongoing energy crisis has been more about steady, careful energy transition than grand ambition.

Hilton says that it is a positive sign that Xi Jinping isn't coming [to Glasgow]. It is not a sign China is not interested or lacking seriousness or commitment. She admits that it is not a great mood booster, but she does admit that the negative side of this event isn't good for you.

Greenpeace East Asia's Li Shuo said it was insufficient and casts doubt on global climate action. This is not the right way to go. He tweeted that Beijing must come up with stronger implementation strategies to ensure that an emission peak is achieved before 2025.

China, the world's largest emitter, is responsible for 27% of global emissions. This makes it an important player in determining if the world will meet the Paris Agreement goals. COP26 aims to bring governments closer to meeting these targets. China's plan won't do this. The UN analysis of Tuesday showed that Earth will rise by approximately 2.7C, according to the previous pledges made today by Xi.

As COP26 nears, India remains the sole major emitter that has not submitted a new plan.

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