What to expect from China at the upcoming major COP26 climate summit


Passengers wear a protective mask while waiting at a traffic light during the seasonal sandstorm on April 15, 2021 in the Central Business District in Beijing, China.

Kevin Frayer Getty Images News Getty Images

China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, is committed to climate change and has set ambitious targets for achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. But so far, details on how to get there have been sparse.

Like many other major countries, China missed the July 30 deadline to submit new climate promises to the United Nations.

That could change to COP26 this year, 26th Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change, according to Gavin Thompson, vice president of Wood Mackenzie Asia Pacific.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is allegedly received a personal invitation to COP26, but did not confirm his presence.

In a Sept. 2 blog, Thompson listed five things that can be expected of China at the upcoming summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

Submit a roadmap

The formal submission of China’s national climate targets before COP26, which begins on October 31, is a “critical step” that Beijing now seems ready to take.

“We should expect much more about how this will be achieved, with key goals for all Chinese provinces and sectors of the economy,” Thompson wrote.

In order to achieve its 2060 carbon footprint target, Wood Mackenzie expects China to need an almost “complete transformation of the way energy is produced and delivered,” he added.

Demand flexibility

Despite pressure from the international community, China has insisted on charting its own course towards net zero emissions and will continue to do so, Thompson said.

He predicted that coal factories in China would not be banned before 2025. The country’s five-year plan continues to include support for high-carbon coal.

“The two goals of energy security and economic growth will spur China’s effort for flexibility in meeting the goals,” he said.

Nevertheless, China is investing in renewable and clean energy while working to achieve the goal of carbon dioxide emissions reaching a peak by 2030.

Oppose the marginal carbon tax

Pressure from richer countries

China has long believed that more developed countries have the responsibility to reduce global emissions, Thompson said.

“You broke it, you fixed it,” he wrote of Beijing’s stance, adding that their stance “is not without justification.”

Shifting the blame to richer countries also has potential economic benefits for China as it dominates the supply and processing of most raw materials for clean technologies.

“By increasing pressure on developed countries to address climate change more urgently, both at home and with increased financial support for poorer countries, Beijing is relying on most of the economic benefits likely to return to China,” a WoodMac note said.

Position yourself as a leader

Beijing tried to present itself as a global leader in the field of climate change in 2020, when the Trump administration left that position empty, Thompson wrote. During the time of former President Donald Trump, The United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which was signed in 2015.

But as the Biden administration has taken a “radically different approach,” China will now have to work harder to become a true leader.

“This should encourage bolder carbon and technology policies, because without them, China’s reputation and global position could be undermined by American ambitions,” he wrote.

The United States and China held talks on climate change last week, but tensions between the two sides came to a head when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that cooperation on climate measures could not be separated from the wider relationship. Reuters reported.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry responded by telling Chinese leaders that climate change is more important than politics.


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