Catastrophic climate change could be avoided because of China’s promise to be carbon neutral by 2060, the UK’s climate diplomat has told Sky News.
John Murton – who is the UK’s envoy for climate summit COP26 – says although the details need to be examined, he hopes other countries will now follow China’s lead to reduce their emissions.
“It’s a really important thing that China has made this commitment as there’s no way that the world would be able to meet Paris goals of keeping temperature rise to no more than 2C – and as close to 1.5C – if China hadn’t made this sort of commitment,” he said.
“So in that sense, it’s good news. We need to learn the details but what it does is tell other big emitters that these sorts of reductions are possible.”
Mr Murton said China’s pledge is a “positive thing” for the COP26 conference, which is due to be held in Glasgow next November, as it could persuade other nations to make similar targets.
China is the world’s worst polluter, but in a virtual speech at the United Nations General Assembly, President Xi Jinping said his country would be carbon neutral by 2060 and achieve a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030.
It is the first time China has said it will end its net contribution to climate change.
But it is not just its domestic reliance on fossil fuels that environmentalists say needs to be cleaned up.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says China spent more than $1tn (£786bn) on foreign infrastructure. Over the last few years, the majority of that is thought to involve fossil fuels.
And it has coal projects in at least 28 countries totalling over $50bn (£39bn), according to global coal finance tracker EndCoal.org.
Professor Lord Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics said: “A big majority of their investments in energy infrastructure would be in fossil fuels, coal and oil and gas, but what we must hope now is that given that China has changed its ambitions, upped its ambitions for emissions within China, that it will apply the same logic outside.
“China’s investments internationally should follow the same principles of China’s investments inside China and China has made statements to the effect that they will be – that China’s investments outside China will be sustainable but that is something that will now be tested.”