The lack of new and more ambitious emissions goals from China sets the tone for the upcoming COP26 Glasgow conference, while experts urge for much greater targets to avoid climate catastrophe.  

What is Happening? 

China remains unmoved despite global pressures to submit more ambitious climate goals, and is sticking with existing emissions targets: to carbon peak by 2030 and to carbon neutrality by 2060. 

The world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gas submitted an updated climate pledge to the UN, otherwise known as a National Determined Contribution (NDC), ahead of the crucial COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, and avoided making any advance on emissions targets. 

China reiterated that it would lower its carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by over 65% from the 2005 level by 2030, and increase the share of renewable sources in the energy mix to about 25%. The only changes made to its NDC is its plan to cut its reliance on fossil fuels to below 20% by 2060. 

A recent UN report warns that the world is on track towards a 2.7°C global temperature increase, exceeding the 1.5C limit that was laid out in the Paris Agreement. This level of global warming will only increase the risk of a climate catastrophe. China is in a position to reduce significant carbon emissions and close the 25% gap between current commitments and the emission reductions that are necessary to cap temperatures from rising over 1.5C. 

“If the world is going to have any chance of coming to grips with the climate crisis, China –  as well as all other major emitters – needs to graduate from taking small steps to giant leaps toward a cleaner and safer future,” Helen Mountford, World Resources Institute’s vice president for Climate and Economics said to CNN

But the new submission only reinforces China’s reluctance to play ball and sets the tone for the upcoming COP26 climate talks. Despite promising to stop building new coal power plants overseas, China’s domestic coal production has soared this year, due to the energy crisis and widespread power shortages. As a result, the nation contributed even more emissions from burning coal and other dirty fossil fuels. 

Experts already fear that not enough progress will be made at the conference, especially as key world leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin announced that they won’t be attending the climate talks in Glasgow in person. 

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