Asia > Eastern Asia > China > Erik Solheim says Beijing has a vital role as the world moves from coal to renewable energy

China: Erik Solheim says Beijing has a vital role as the world moves from coal to renewable energy


The world’s biggest polluter China has a “large job” ahead of it in the world fight against climate change, the UN’s environment chief said on Wednesday.

Since US President Donald Trump’s decision in June to quit the Paris agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Beijing has proclaimed its willingness to stick to the pact.

Analysts say the US move gives China an opportunity to establish its credibility and strengthen its diplomatic clout ahead of next negotiations.

Beijing has repeatedly pledged to reduce its reliance on carbon-belching coal as it seeks to clear the toxic smog from its cities.

But it has as well invested heavily in coal projects abroad as part of its belt and road infrastructure initiative, prompting accusations it is exporting its pollution to poorer and less developed nations.

Erik Solheim, chief of the UN Environment Programme, said the world was in a “transformative phase” from coal to renewable energy, and Beijing had a vital role to play.

Inclunding its number one position as a source of pollution, China is as well the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

Its coal consumption has fallen for the completed three years, and before this year it reportedly cancelled additional than 100 coal power projects.

But China still relies on the fuel for 62 % of its primary energy mix.

China has a very large job ahead of it to transform fundamentally from coal into these very promising new technologies,” Solheim said.

German environmental group Urgewald estimates that around 250 Chinese companies are involved in nearly half the 1,600 new coal power projects planned or being built worldwide, inclunding in nations such as Pakistan and Egypt which currently burn almost no coal.

Solheim warned that “locking yourself into this old-fashioned technology is very dangerous”, as it would make them heavily dependent on fossil fuel for decades with critical environmental and health risks.

Trump “clearly made a mistake” in withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, said Solheim, who was in Seoul for meetings with South Korean officials and businesses.

But the consequences of Trump’s decision were “limited”, Solheim insisted, adding it had only “energised all environment community” inclunding America’s large businesses such as Apple, Google and Microsoft.

“They do that for their customers and for the environment. They don’t do it for the White Home,” he said.

The Paris climate accord was signed last year by 175 nations and went into result in November, just days before Trump was elected – having vowed on the campaign trail to back out of it.

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