China has announced that it will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad in a move that could significantly limit the financing of coal plants in the developing world.

In his pre-recorded video address to the United Nations General Assembly, China’s President Xi Jinping’s central message was to up its efforts to deal with climate change. Xi said, “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 reiterated China’s commitment to achieve a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060.

Speaking after the US president Joe Biden, Xi reiterated China’s peaceful intentions in the realm of international relations. In his speech, President Xi did not directly address China’s often bitter rivalry with the US.

Earlier, Biden had underlined a new era of dynamic competition without a new cold war despite China’s rising influence in the global economic and geo-political landscape.

In recent years, China has been under immense diplomatic pressure to halt its coal-based projects overseas. The key factor behind the criticism toward Beijing is the 2015 Paris climate agreement designed primarily to reduce carbon emissions.

China’s move comes after South Korea and Japan made similar pledges earlier this year. The three nations are responsible for over 95% of all foreign financing for coal firepower plants with China being liable for the majority.

The experts say that China’s renewed pledge shows that China realises that the future of energy lies in the renewables. They believe pledge makes sense for China ahead of the COP26 in Glasgow, which is scheduled to be held in just over a month’s time.

Green energy advocacy groups say that China’s latest commitment pretty much ensures a halt in global coal expansion. An end to public finance of coal from China will mean that the world is on the way back from coal emissions.

In a statement, Director of Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center Dr Kevin Gallagher said that China “deserves great praise for pledging to stop building coal plants overseas – the first developing country to make such a pledge and the last of the major public financiers of overseas coal to do so.”

However, the experts remain concerned about China’s emissions rate at home since the largest economy in the world is also the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and is heavily dependent on coal for its domestic energy needs.

Earlier in April, a report by analysis company TransitionZero said that for China to meet its goal of net zero emissions at home by 2060, Beijing would have to shut down and replace nearly 600 of its coal-fired with renewable electricity generation power plants in the next decade.

Meanwhile, in a statement, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the move. Guterres said, “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.”


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