Oct 29, 2021 - Energy & Environment

China's reality check ahead of COP26

Global carbon dioxide emissions from energy use
Data: BP; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Hopes for a breakthrough with Chinese leaders are hanging by a thread just two days before the UN climate summit, but the story's not over yet.

Catch up fast: China, in a long-awaited new submission to the UN Thursday, declined to speed up its existing pledge to reach peak carbon emissions before 2030.

Why it matters: China's by far the world's biggest emitter. Its path is key to whether the temperature-limiting goals of the Paris Agreement can remain within reach.

The big picture: The absence of a stronger pledge bummed out advocates ahead of COP26's opening Sunday.

  • "It doesn’t advance the ball sufficiently," U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told the NYT, and the story headline calls China's move a "bad omen" for COP26.
  • "China's decision casts a shadow on the global climate effort," Greenpeace's Li Shuo said.
  • Bernice Lee of the London-based Chatham House tells NewScientist that "you can't sugar-coat it" and the world was "expecting more."

Yes, but: These formal filings with the UN aren't the only venue for commitments.

  • "There is still a lot Beijing could do outside of these targets in the next two weeks at the G20 Summit in Rome and COP26 in Glasgow,"  said Byford Tsang of the climate think tank E3G.
  • That includes China "supporting a political commitment" to keeping warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, and putting a sunset date on its coal use, Tsang said in a statement.

Go deeper: What to know about COP26 in Glasgow

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