MANILA, 22 September 2021 — Chinese President Xi Jinping and United States President Joseph Biden pledged climate and energy commitments today at the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), answering calls for urgent climate action from President Rodrigo Duterte and other world leaders.
Xi vowed that China will halt new coal-fired power projects abroad, following similar announcements by South Korea and Japan earlier this year. The three countries are the top public financiers of coal overseas, accounting for over 95% of total international coal financing since 2013 — including in the Philippines — with China being the biggest funder.
Biden told the UNGA that he will work with the US Congress to double their international climate finance to $11.4 billion per year by 2024. The US is currently the world’s second-biggest greenhouse gas emitter after China but is still ranked first in terms of historical emissions.
Reacting to these developments, Renato Redentor Constantino, executive director of the Manila-based policy group Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said:
“We welcome the commitments of Presidents Xi and Biden ahead of November’s UN climate conference in Glasgow. Their statements send a strong, unequivocal signal to world leaders and the private sector that the age of coal is over and the energy transition is well underway. It’s time we use this opportunity to flatten both the climate and COVID curves together.
“As President Rodrigo Duterte said in his speech, climate-vulnerable countries such as ours must do our fair share of climate action but developed nations, particularly the biggest emitters, must lead the way if we are to avoid breaching the 1.5 global warming threshold of the Paris Agreement.
“We await with eagerness the details of China’s pledge to end overseas coal financing, with the hope that a domestic coal phaseout and support for accelerating the global energy transition will soon follow. It’s time Beijing channels its support towards greater ties with vulnerable countries where climate ambition is now increasingly anchored on prosperity plans that address both resilience and low carbon pathways. Opportunities abound for new alliances that rest on climate diplomacy and hope, an arena China should play a more active role in. Meanwhile, we join our colleagues in the United States and across the world in calling for the US to commit its fair share of climate finance and emissions reductions, as the Biden pledge falls way behind what other developed countries have spent on climate finance. The call for an actual, operational plan to deliver $500 billion by COP26, covering the period 2020-2024, has never been more urgent, as it represents the minimum step needed to rebuild trust destroyed by the Trump administration and other opponents of climate action.
“President Xi’s call to put people and their lives first and to respect science applies to the world’s fight against the dual challenges of COVID-19 and climate crisis faced daily by the 1.2 billion people in climate vulnerable countries. This approach should occupy centerstage in COP26 and Biden’s notion of fighting for a ‘shared future’ should be put to the test when the world meets in Glasgow come November.”
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
“Developed countries must fulfill their longstanding commitment to climate financing, technology transfer, and capacity-building in the developing world. This is a moral obligation that cannot be avoided. Our worst transition to a green economy must not be at the expense of developing countries’ economic vitality. It simply cannot be or it would be another travesty of justice,” President Duterte said in his speech to the UNGA.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reported last week that rich countries overall contributed $79.6 billion of international climate finance in 2019, well below the UN climate finance goal of $100 billion per year by 2020.
Ira Guerrero, ICSC: email@example.com, +63 917 149 5649, +63 917 659 5651
Image from screencaps of the United Nations General Assembly webcast.