China is hoping to reach a consensus on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.
According to China’s top climate official, the nation hopes for a global agreement to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy in efforts to address the climate crisis. This statement was made as countries debated the precise wording of a potential deal over the weekend.
China’s climate representative, Xie Zhenhua, did not give a clear stance on whether China was in favor or against the elimination of fossil fuels. This is a topic that over 100 governments are advocating for at the important Cop28 UN summit.
However, he stated that he and his team were working constructively to reach a resolution on the disputed matter, which has become the main focus of the two-week-long discussions currently taking place in Dubai and set to conclude on Tuesday.
He hinted at China’s potential for compromise by mentioning a joint statement with US climate envoy John Kerry during a meeting in Sunnylands, California in November. Xie, speaking through an interpreter at a press conference attended by the Guardian on Saturday evening, stated that the statement included a commitment from both China and the US to greatly promote renewable energy usage and gradually replace oil, gas, and coal power generation in order to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
He stated that he had heard another potential solution for the language in a Cop28 agreement, which involves gradually decreasing the use of fossil fuels in the global energy mix.
He stated that there are various alternatives, but he will not mention all of them and he does not want to make any assumptions about the final result. However, he believes that everyone will collaborate to discover a suitable language that meets the needs of all involved and aligns with the changing and innovative trends. He also believes that this aligns with the guidelines of the Paris agreement.
China is the largest producer of emissions and the second largest economy globally. It heavily relies on coal as an energy source. Other representatives have informed the Guardian that China has hindered talks on phasing out the use of fossil fuels.
According to Xie, countries that produce oil may encounter unique challenges. “I have already spoken with the minister of one oil-producing country,” he explained. “He informed me that 80% to 90% of his country’s revenue is derived from oil production. If we eliminate all fossil fuels, including oil, how will their country thrive and progress?”
“He stated that the transition process requires mutual understanding, support, and cooperation in order to find a satisfactory solution that addresses the issue and is agreeable to all parties involved. He believes this is the most effective approach.”
Xie’s statement could suggest a shift in China’s stance towards a more flexible approach or a readiness to negotiate. However, there is no assurance that the country will consent to any phrasing regarding fossil fuels in the ultimate document. During the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in 2021, the eventual accord included a pledge to eliminate coal until the very end, but this was altered to a “phase-down” due to objections from China and India.
According to Xie, China is decreasing its reliance on coal. He stated that China has announced plans to strictly limit the growth of coal production during the 14th five-year plan (2021-2025) and gradually decrease production during the 15th five-year plan (after 2025).
“We have been making significant progress in the development of renewable energy. As I mentioned, China’s installed capacity for renewable energy has already exceeded that of coal power. This shows the rapid growth and advancement of renewable energy.”
However, he also stated that there is a need for further progress. “The growth of renewable energy production is not keeping pace with the increase in installed capacity due to various technical obstacles, such as limited energy storage, smart grid challenges, and virtual power plants. Therefore, I am confident that if we can overcome these technical challenges, China’s renewable energy sector will continue to develop at an accelerated and improved rate in the future.”
Xie, a veteran official and prominent figure at the yearly gathering of the United Nations framework convention on climate change, the parent treaty of the Paris agreement, has a close rapport with Kerry. During Cop28, the US offices are conveniently located near China’s offices, allowing for sporadic “unplanned” meetings between the two.
According to two negotiators from developed countries who spoke to the Guardian, Xie’s statements confirmed China’s active involvement in discussions about fossil fuels. One of them stated that it would be beneficial to see Opec nations also participating in a similar manner.
According to Li Shuo, a member of the Asia Society Policy Institute, the agreement between the US and China at Sunnylands will serve as the minimum standard for COP28. While this agreement may provide some stability in Dubai’s political climate, it may not be enough if the rest of the world only follows the limited ambition of the two largest economies. It is crucial for other countries to take decisive action and build upon the foundation set by the US and China in order for this climate summit to be successful.