22 Sep 2021

China pledges to stop building more coal plants in other countries

Chief Correspondent

With the COP26 climate summit weeks away, there was some good news from China, which announced that it will no longer be involved in new coal power projects overseas.

Remember all those people who always say, ‘well, it doesn’t matter what we do about climate in the UK because the Americans and the Chinese aren’t doing it and they’re the big polluters’.

Well, that’s all changed. And it’s changed in two ways. We’re not talking about targets anymore. We’re talking about action.

And the Chinese have said they’re not going to fund any more coal-fired power stations. They spent $40 billion on this since 2000 and they’ve tapered off recently.

And they’re following, it’s true, in the wake of both Japan and Korea in doing this. But in pulling out, it sends a huge shockwave through the entire financial edifice for people who would want to finance future coal power stations. A huge win on the road to COP26.

Second, the money. Both the Chinese and the US have said they will stump up and pay their bit towards the $100 billion pledged as part of a COP agreement to help emerging economies deal with decarbonisation. A huge step. G20 will follow.

The British say they’re already going to do it. It looks like now the $100 billion target is within sight. It looked like a pipe dream just a few days ago.

Cutting methane

If we want to do two things to cut humanity’s carbon, you shut coal-fired power stations. The other thing is, you cut methane, largely from agriculture and industry.

Methane is way more damaging in the short term than carbon dioxide. In the last few days both the US and the EU have sealed an agreement. It’s only a target, but it is a hugely significant one.

They’re pledging to cut their methane output by a third by 2030. That will likely be taken up by G20 nations and countries beyond. And, who knows? Maybe Xi Jinping and the Chinese as well. So that is another huge move on the road to COP.

Air pollution

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has tightened its air quality guidelines this week for the first time since 2005, hoping to spur countries toward clean energy and prevent deaths and illness caused by air pollution.

They want to cut nitrous oxide, which largely comes from diesel vehicle exhaust by 75 % in our cities, globally.

And they also want to cut by 50 % the particulates which are so damaging from burning fossil fuels.

And it is damaging, it’s reckoned to kill more than 7 million people a year. Those are the kind of figures we’re talking about here. It’s easy to forget those kinds of numbers.

The guidelines have no stipulation in law, but that will be fed into planning by many major urban authorities and the whole COP process will give that an enormous push. Things, as I say, are beginning to happen beyond just targeting.