CHINA WILL STOP funding the construction of overseas coal-fired power stations under the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping told the UN General Assembly meeting in New York via a video link.
The decision will be taken as a welcome, if somewhat symbolic, boost to global control of greenhouse gas emissions, with the next round of COP climate discussions due to take place in Scotland in November.
However, Xi was light on details of how the policy change would be implemented; his announcement amounted to a single sentence in his speech. It appears that China has not funded any coal-fired power stations abroad so far this year, although it has accounted for the majority of new coal projects around the world in recent years.
The bigger switch for China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, would be to wean itself off its dependency on coal for domestic power generation.
Half the coal burned in the world is burned in China, and in the first half of this year, authorities approved the construction of 24 new coal-fired domestic power plants, according to Greenpeace, although that is a fall of 80% from the same period last year.
Many of these plants will have a lifespan of 40 to 50 years. That will make meeting Xi’s other climate commitments made last year at the UN, including China achieving peak emissions before 2030 and then transitioning to carbon neutrality by 2060, challenging to achieve.