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22 Sep 2021

Vincent Ni, Guardian,
Helen Sullivan, Guardian

‘Big line in the sand’: China promises no new coal-fired power projects abroad

Experts and activists have welcomed Xi Jinping’s announcement China is to end involvement in coal-fired power stations overseas but called for more detail and clarity on how it will be translated into reality.

The declaration, which came in a pre-recorded address to the UN general assembly [...] “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 told [...]

China['s] move follows similar announcements by South Korea and Japan earlier this year. Together, the three countries were responsible for more than 95% of all foreign financing for coal firepower plants, with China making up the bulk, according to Georgetown University.

“Many questions can be asked about the announcement, including whether it will be implemented immediately, does it include only financing or also construction, does it apply to state actors only, will it lead to a similar moratorium on fossil fuels?” said Li Shuo, a senior adviser at Greenpeace east Asia.

“The answer to them is simply ‘we don’t know’. Seeking clarification should be a priority for the next few weeks.” [...]

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

Meeting its goal of net zero emissions at home by 2060 would also require significant action, with China needing to shut down nearly 600 of its coal-fired power plants in the next decade and replacing them with renewable electricity generation, according to a report by analysis company TransitionZero in April this year.

Unless China reduces its own emissions sharply in the next 10 years, the world stands little chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C.