COP26: China says it does not want climate solutions held up by disagreement over global warming goal

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China does not want differences over specific climate targets to hold up action on bigger issues at COP26, according to Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua.

Xie said a major hurdle at the talks had been the suggestion by some countries to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

That target is more ambitious than the one laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to control it within 1.5 degrees.

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“The target in the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees has achieved the consensus of all countries and has great inclusiveness,” Chinese state broadcaster CCTV quoted Xie as saying.

“China does not want to see [countries] negotiate and diverge at this conference because of resetting of goals, delaying the solving of issues that need to be resolved.”

Xie’s comments came at the start of the second and final week of climate negotiations in Glasgow, where countries are under pressure to find wider agreement on the final rules for the 2015 Paris Agreement and on financing to help vulnerable countries cope with climate change.

But countries disagreed on the expression of climate goals set by the Paris Agreement. Developed countries called on nations to take urgent action in the coming decade and keep alive the Paris Agreement’s goal of pursuing efforts to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, countries with more carbon-based economies, including China, have said the international community should stick to what was agreed in the Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels.

From ‘airpocalypse’ to carbon cutter: China’s road to climate reckoning

Last week, China joined a global pledge to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The pledge covers more than 130 countries, including the US, Canada, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, which account for around 90 per cent of the world’s forest coverage.

In the pledge, countries committed to strengthening shared efforts to conserve forests and accelerate their restoration. China’s forest coverage rate rose from 8.6 per cent in 1949 to 23 per cent by the end of last year.

It did not commit to reducing methane emissions by at least 30 per cent from 2020 levels by 2030 – a pledge signed by more than 100 countries. It also did not join the pledge made by 24 countries to end support for fossil fuels abroad by the end of 2022.

Meanwhile, more than 40 countries pledged to shift away from coal. Signatories to the agreement agreed to phase out coal-fired power generation in the 2030s in richer countries and the 2040s for poorer nations – which is in line with the International Energy Agency’s suggestion of the pathway to achieving net-zero by 2050. But some of the big coal-dependent nations, including China, India and the US, did not sign up.

On Sunday, the British presidency of the COP26 summit released a paper identifying “possible elements” for inclusion under the Glasgow outcome. The draft document includes statements such as “urgency of actions to keep 1.5 degrees alive” and “global net-zero by 2050”.

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Addressing the COP26 world leaders summit, UN Secretary General António Guterres said countries must keep the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius alive, which required cutting global emissions 45 per cent by 2030.

“If commitments fall short by the end of this COP, countries must revisit their national climate plans and policies,” Guterres said.

“Not every five years. Every year …. Until keeping to 1.5 degrees is assured.”

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