Climate pledges from Asia send 'extremely important' signal, says U.N. climate chief

Matthew Green
·2-min read
U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid
U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid

By Matthew Green

LONDON (Reuters) - Pledges by China, Japan and South Korea to slash carbon emissions to net zero are "extremely important" signs of leadership in reviving global efforts to tackle climate change, the United Nations climate chief said on Friday.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), welcomed this week's announcements by Japan and South Korea that they would target carbon neutrality by 2050, and China's pledge in September to hit the goal by 2060.

"These signals of very strong commitments by countries that are very important, and that have a real impact on the level of emissions globally, are extremely important," Espinosa told Reuters in a video interview.

"And it's also very important to recognize that they are coming at a time when we need this kind of leadership," she said.

Diplomats had begun 2020 hoping this would prove to be a pivotal year in implementing a global accord to slow climate change brokered in Paris in 2015.

But the COVID-19 pandemic threw those plans into disarray, forcing officials to postpone a major climate conference that had been due to take place in Glasgow in November by a year.

Climate diplomacy has been further overshadowed by last year's move by U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the accord. That decision takes effect the day after U.S. presidential elections on Nov. 3 -- the earliest date the country could leave due to way the pact is designed.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has pledged to return the United States to the deal if he wins.

Espinosa said the Asian net-zero pledges had boosted hopes that more countries would take bolder climate action.

"It's really a significant contribution towards bringing the international community in line to achieving the goals under the Paris Agreement," she said. "And that means the future for humanity in this planet."

(Reporting by Matthew Green; Editing by Hugh Lawson)