China's climate envoy on Tuesday said the world's most populous nation would release its updated plans to reduce carbon emissions "in the near future" as nations prepare to meet later this year for a pivotal global conference.
Climate negotiators from 196 countries and the European Union as well as businesses, experts and world leaders will gather in Glasgow in November for the COP26 summit.
The meeting is the crucial next step in getting the world’s nations to agree to the kind of reduction in carbon emissions needed to stave off catastrophic climate change.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries are meant to have submitted updated 2030 climate targets ahead of COP26.
But nearly half have yet to do so, including key global emitters like China and India.
On Tuesday, China’s top climate negotiator said Beijing’s updated plans would soon be released, potentially before the Glasgow meet.
“In the near future relevant policy papers will be out there, there will be detailed implementation plans,” Xie Zhenhua told an online webinar organised by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
“Then we’re going to talk about that support to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow,” he added, according to a simultaneous English translation of his speech.
The United Nations is pushing for a global coalition committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 which will cover all countries. China has said it will aim for carbon neutrality by 2060.
The 2015 Paris Agreement adopted a collective promise to cap the planet’s rising surface temperature at “well below” two degrees Celsius and an aspirational limit on 1.5 degrees.
Many scientists now say 1.5 degrees must be reached to effectively tackle climate change and say huge emitters like China will be crucial in making that a reality.
Record-smashing heatwaves, floods and drought across three continents in recent weeks — all amplified by global warming — have added pressure for decisive action in Glasgow.
China is reluctant to commit to 1.5 degrees.
“Some countries are pushing to rewrite the Paris Agreement,” Xie said. “That is, they want to strive to change the target of control for the rise of temperature from two degrees Celsius to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
“We have to understand the different situations in different countries, and strive to reach a consensus,” he added.
China argues that industrialised nations, especially in the West, were able to get wealthy before carbon reduction controls came in and that it and other developing economies should not be expected to make as heavy reductions.
Critics of that view say the world cannot afford for huge populous nations like China and India to be slow on reducing their own carbon footprints.
“While China has pledged carbon neutrality in mid-century, which is great, it has not so far announced plans to do enough in the 2020s in my judgment,” Todd Stern, President Barack Obama’s former climate negotiator, who has often sat opposite Xie at summits, told the same webinar.