Groups hail ‘strong’ moves for climate action at UN general assembly
MANILA, Philippines — Groups welcomed the pledges made by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and United States President Joe Biden on climate and energy at the 76th United Nations General Assembly, which are seen as big boosts in the fight against climate change.
Xi told world leaders that China—the biggest public backer of coal—would not build new coal-fired power projects overseas. He provided no details, but climate groups are hoping that domestic coal phaseout and support for accelerating the global energy transition will follow.
Biden, meanwhile, promised to double Washington’s contribution to nations hardest hit by climate change.
“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,” said Renato Redentor Constantino, executive director of the Manila-based policy group Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.
The Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development is hoping Xi’s announcement will cover coal mines and plants under construction and in the pipeline as well as Beijing’s involvement in overseas coal projects.
“It would dramatically improve our chances of meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions,” APMDD coordinator Lidy Nacpil said.
“This has been the call of many peoples movements and organizations in Asia, Africa and the Global South for so long. We consider this a major victory in the fight for a fossil fuel-free future,” she added.
In his speech at the UNGA, President Rodrigo Duterte called on wealthy nations to deliver on their climate finance pledges to low-income countries like the Philippines to help them bolster their defenses against the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
“This is a moral obligation that cannot be avoided,” Duterte said.
Last week, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reported 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.
Biden said he would work with US Congress to double climate finance funds to $11.4 billion per year by 2024 to support climate action in vulnerable countries.
But the pledge of Biden “falls way behind what other developed countries have spent on climate finance,” ICSC's Constantino said.
Xi and Biden made the commitments less than six weeks before the COP26 climate conference due to take place from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. The summit is seen as critical to keeping alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
China is currently the world's second-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, but the US is still ranked first in terms of historical emissions.
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