China and the United States have this week boosted momentum ahead of November’s COP26 key climate summit with new energy and funding pledges to tackle planetary warming, but analysts said they lacked detail and far more was needed to meet global goals.
Leaders of the world’s two largest economies announced separate measures at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday, with China pledging to end overseas coal financing and the US saying it would double climate funding for developing countries.
The announcements were hailed as important ahead of the COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow, but green groups said both countries — the world’s two largest carbon polluters — and other major emitters needed to raise their game in the coming weeks.
Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, said climate finance and action to slash emissions “need to be scaled up considerably” before COP26.
Getting countries to strengthen their emissions-cutting plans and provide the finance to put them into practice are crucial at COP26, billed as the last chance to galvanise the collective effort needed to limit global warming to 1.5C above preindustrial times.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the US and Chinese announcements but said the world still had “a long way to go to make COP26 a success”.
He urged countries to “go the extra mile” and bring their “highest level of ambition” to Glasgow, to keep the 1.5C goal — the lowest threshold in the 2015 Paris Agreement — within reach.
Swiftly ending coal use is seen as crucial to meeting the Paris pact commitment to cap global warming at “well below” 2C, and ideally 1.5C, to avoid rapidly worsening climate threats such as harsher storms, floods, wildfires and crop failures.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping told the annual UN gathering on Tuesday that his country would not build any new coal-fired power projects abroad, following in the footsteps of South Korea and Japan earlier this year, but did not provide details.
Campaigners urged China to provide more clarity on how it plans to end overseas coal financing, and to set a clearer timeline to phase out the dirty fossil fuel at home.
“(This) is significant as China, the last man standing in the world of overseas coal finance, made clear that coal power is not part of its future,” said Joojin Kim, managing director at Solutions for Our Climate, a Seoul-based non-profit.
He said more information was needed on whether China would move away from overseas coal projects already planned and what it would do with the long pipeline of coal power plants under development within its borders.
Green groups also urged US President Joe Biden to do more after he told the UNGA he would work with Congress to double climate finance for developing nations to $11.4bn a year by 2024.
Biden’s announcement will move donor governments closer to meeting an overdue pledge, set more than a decade ago, to deliver $100bn a year from 2020 to help vulnerable countries adapt to global warming and transition to cleaner energy.
But many campaigners said the new pledge still fell short.
The world’s two super-powers will need to show they are serious about their new commitments, said Li Shuo, a senior advisor at Greenpeace East Asia. – Thomson Reuters Foundation