US, UK welcome China end to coal funding but seek more

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A Chinese-backed coal plant in Serang, Indonesia seen in October 2020 (AFP/RONALD SIAGIAN)
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The United States and Britain on Wednesday welcomed China's promise to end funding for coal projects overseas, but voiced hope the world's largest emitter would also do more at home on climate change.

President Xi Jinping told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that China will stop backing coal overseas, all but drying up the world's foreign assistance to the dirty form of energy in developing countries after similar announcements by South Korea and Japan.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, seeking to rally international support for strong climate action ahead of UN climate talks in Glasgow in November, voiced hope for a complete global end to coal by 2040.

"I thank President Xi for what he has done to end China's international financing of coal and I hope China will now go further and phase out the domestic use of coal as well," Johnson told the General Assembly.

"Because the experience of the UK shows it can be done.

Despite China's pledge on overseas assistance, it has kept investing at home in coal -- an issue raised on a visit earlier this month by US climate envoy John Kerry.

A US official said of Xi's move: "We welcome this announcement but we also recognize that more needs to be done."

"We look forward to hearing more about the additional steps that they can take in this decisive decade to further reduce their national emissions," the official told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.

The official said that further Chinese action would "help put the world more closely on a trajectory that will hold temperatures from rising to well above 1.5 degrees," as appears increasingly likely despite an aspiration set by the 2015 Paris accord.

UN scientists say that warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels is a threshold at which the planet can avoid the worst ravages of climate change including increasingly severe weather, droughts and flooding.

President Joe Biden has put a high priority on the environment after defeating the climate skeptic Donald Trump and in his own UN speech Tuesday vowed to double US aid for countries hardest hit by climate change, a key gap ahead of the Glasgow talks.

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