What does it mean for Beijing? – Community News
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What does it mean for Beijing?

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Beijing (AFP) – After trading barbs at the COP26 UN summit in Glasgow, the United States and China announced a surprising pact to work together on climate change.

What do the broad pledges mean for China, which is responsible for more than a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions?

What are China’s climate goals?

China has pledged to peak coal consumption by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060.

It has also said it will reduce emissions intensity — or emissions per unit of economic output — by more than 65 percent.

But Beijing has yet to specify exactly how it plans to achieve these goals, and environmentalists have warned that without specifying the peak size or setting an absolute ceiling, China could essentially continue to increase emissions through 2030.

President Xi Jinping has said China will stop financing coal projects abroad, but at home it will continue to build new coal plants — the biggest source of carbon pollution.

The United States has announced that it will be carbon neutral by 2050.

What have the US and China agreed to?

Washington and Beijing have pledged to establish a working group to tackle climate change in the short term and promised to meet regularly to address the crisis.

The world’s two biggest polluters said they “recognize the gravity and urgency of the climate crisis,” especially during this “critical decade,” according to a document outlining the blanket agreement.

The first meeting is in the first half of next year.

“This demonstrates once again that China and the US can work together on matters of global importance,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday.

While the plan was light on concrete goals, it was heavy on political symbolism.

Li Shuo, Greenpeace China’s global policy adviser, told AFP that the statement clearly indicates “a political desire to set the issue of climate change aside a bit” from other sources of tension.

“It prevents the worst – a disconnect between the US and China on climate action.”

What about methane?

About 100 countries joined an initiative this month to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent this decade, but China was noticeably absent.

The US-China pact includes a focus on reducing methane emissions, with both sides looking at improving measurements and mitigation in the fossil fuel, waste and agriculture sectors.

However, environmentalists have warned that Beijing is still lagging behind in understanding the sources and magnitude of methane emissions, with much of its climate efforts focusing instead on carbon emissions.

Methane is considered the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. While it can be naturally released and absorbed by the earth, its emissions have skyrocketed with industrialization and the expansion of agriculture.

China’s main methane sources are not only mining and burning fossil fuels, but also natural emissions from livestock and sprawling rice farms. These emissions are more difficult to measure and control than the use of fossil fuels.

Why isn’t China committing to an earlier peak?

Washington would like Beijing to sign up for a more ambitious emissions peak earlier than 2030.

However, China does not want to be seen as bowing to political pressure and is skeptical that the United States and other countries can deliver on their own climate promises.

It also faces a struggle to rid itself of coal, which supplies nearly 60 percent of its power.

Lauri Myllyvirta, chief analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said China is not setting more specific targets, possibly related to the economic slowdown.

“Uncertainty about the economic outlook has made leadership hesitant to commit to a specific emissions trajectory or ceiling for this decade,” he told AFP.

However, an important provision in the US-China pact leaves them room to update their long-term strategies and keep the channels of communication open.

Shiran Victoria Shen, an environmental policy expert at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, added that China tends to “deliver too little on its promises, but too much on its international obligations.”

This provides “some reassurance that a seemingly unambitious international pledge may still come with the necessary change.”