China seemingly ‘retreating’ on climate deal with the US

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China’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 exceeded the US and other developed nations combined. Fast forward to March 2021, the post-Pandemic surge of economic activity saw China’s emissions reach a new record high of nearly 12 billion tonnes, an amount 5% greater than their aforementioned emissions in 2019.

Pollution in China

What did China agree to at COP26

Jinping speaking over video call instead of in person

Due to their emission status, the spotlight was on China at the COP26 summit in November 2021. Everyone expected Xie Zhenhua, China’s lead climate negotiator, to unveil some grand and ambitious concessions and targets to set the standard for other nations to follow. The opposite occured.

On October 26th, China released its new Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). This was a huge disappointment, as the new plan seemed to simply reiterate the pledge made in 2015.

Despite lots of backlash, China’s NDC is still currently not aligned with keeping global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the entire goal of the Paris Agreement.

On October 31st, the first official day of the summit, Xi Jingping was not in attendance due to ‘domestic work arrangements.’

On November 2nd, China joins over 130 countries in a pledge to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, a deal they did not take part in in 2014, yet does not join the Global Methane Pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. For reference, methane is 80x more powerful than CO2.

On November 4th, China does not sign the global coal pledge to phase out coal-fired power and refrain from building new coal plants. In 2020, China consumed over 50% of the worlds coal and built one new coal plant per week.

On November 10th, China and the US announce a bilateral ‘Glasgow Declaration’, in which they set out to cooperate on environmental policies and regulation of their emissions. This was significant considering China and the US are the world’s largest emitters by a large margin.

China backing down from the ‘Glasgow Declaration’

It’s clear that China was one of the most underwhelming nations at COP26, despite being the nation which needs to take the most accountability for climate change through radical action.

To make things worse, Xi’s recent talk to the press make it seem like China is backing down from the terms of the Glasgow Declaration with the US, which was really the only good thing to come from China at COP26.

According to this article, Jinping stated that we cannot expect a radical decrease in China’s emissions, and that they are putting the economy first when constructing the policies that are intended to improve their footprint.

Xi saying this sheds light on how committed China really are in our fight against climate change. If China keeps moving the goal posts further back for their targets we may run out of time, and our collective efforts to not exceed 1.5 degrees may be futile.

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