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 Climate Change

Published on: Oct. 27, 2021, 12:21 p.m.
Will Xi attend COP26?
  • Xi: keeps everyone guessing

By Business India Editorial

Come this Sunday, global leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will come together in Glasgow to thrash out plans and mobilise funds to steer the planet towards clean energy. But will the leaser of the biggest greenhouse emitter be there?

According to a Reuters report, Chinese President Xi Jinping is unlikely to attend the UN COP26 climate summit being held in Scotland from this Sunday till 12 November.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's expected absence from the talks could indicate that the world's biggest CO2 producer has already decided that it has no more concessions to offer at the climate summit after three major pledges since last year, Reuters reported quoting climate watchers.

China is likely to send vice-environment minister Zhao Yingmin along with the veteran Xie Zhenhua, who was reappointed as the country's top climate envoy earlier this year following a three-year hiatus.

“One thing is clear,” said Li Shuo, senior climate adviser with Greenpeace in Beijing, “COP26 needs high-level support from China as well as other emitters.”

The global leaders will come under pressure from summit organisers to commit to quicker emissions cuts and set a target date to reach carbon neutrality — a target set by Xi for 2060 in a surprise move last year.

However, experts feel that China will be unwilling to be seen yielding to international pressure for ambitious targets, especially at a time when the country is grappling with an energy supply crunch.

Xi has already missed several high-profile global summits since the Covid-19 outbreak began in late 2019, and didn't physically attend the Global Biodiversity Conference in China's Kunming earlier this month.

Rather than making more concessions, China and India’s top priority is to secure a strong financing deal allowing richer countries to meet their Paris Agreement commitment to provide $100 billion per year to help pay for climate adaptation and transfer clean technology in the developing world. Xi did attend the Paris summit in person in 2015.

Although Xi has not travelled outside China since before the pandemic, he has made three major climate announcements on the international stage. His unexpected net zero commitment came in a video address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2020. That announcement encouraged enterprises, industry sectors and even other countries to respond with their own net-zero action plans.

Xi also said in a message to the US-led Leaders Summit on Climate in April that China would start cutting coal consumption by 2026. And he used this year's UNGA to announce an immediate end to overseas coal financing, a major bone of contention.

Like India, China has been under pressure to add more ambition to its updated "nationally determined contributions" (NDCs) on climate change, which are due to be announced before the Glasgow talks begin.

However, the revisions are expected to focus on implementing the targets that have already been announced, rather than making them more ambitious.

China has repeatedly stressed that its climate policies are designed to serve its own domestic priorities, and will not be pursued at the expense of national security and public welfare.


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