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China to stop funding coal projects overseas as US to double climate finance contribution

The US president told the UN that the world was approaching a point of no return.

Joe Biden speaking at the UN headquarters in New York today.
Joe Biden speaking at the UN headquarters in New York today.
Image: Timothy A. CLARY

Updated Sep 21st 2021, 9:42 PM

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden has committed to doubling US contributions towards a goal of mobilising $100 billion for countries hardest-hit by global warming.

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the announcement is a “very good start” towards the $100 billion (€852,697,000) goal. 

Biden said at the United Nations today that “we’re fast approaching a point of no return”.

The president of China Xi Jinping also told the UN assembly that China will stop funding coal projects overseas, ending a major source of support for a dirty energy contributing to climate change.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Xi made the promise as he vowed to accelerate efforts to help the world battle the climate crisis.

“China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low carbon energy and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad,” the president said in a pre-recorded address.

“We should foster new growth drivers in the post-Covid era and jointly achieve leapfrog development, staying committed to harmony between man and nature.”

Speaking as Johnson was travelling to the White House for a meeting between the two leaders, Biden told the UN he would seek to double funds for helping developing nations with climate change.

That would bring the US’s total to $11.4 billion (€9.7 billion) per year.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister obviously welcomes the financial commitment that the president has just made on tackling climate change.

“You heard the PM yesterday calling for developed countries to put more money forward in regard to this.”

Johnson had earlier downplayed the chances of hitting the $100 billion target by the Cop26 conference in Glasgow in November.

Biden said he would work with the US Congress to double the contribution again, including funding to help poorer countries to adapt to the impacts of rising global temperatures.

He said the move would, with increased private finance and contributions from other donors, mean developed countries meet the long-promised goal of delivering $100 billion a year for developing countries to deal with the crisis.

Meeting the pledge, first made at climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009, is seen as key to securing a successful outcome at the UN’s key Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November, where countries are under pressure to increase action to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Biden said: “Scientists and experts are telling us that we’re fast approaching a point of no return.

“To keep within our reach the vital goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C, every nation needs to bring the highest possible ambitions to the table when we meet in Glasgow for Cop26, and then have to keep raising our collective ambition over time.”

Of the pledge to further double climate funding, Biden said: “This will make the United States a leader in public climate finance.

“With our added support, together with increased private capital, and from other donors, we’ll be able to meet the goal of mobilising 100 billion to support climate action in developing nations.”

Biden and Johnson are scheduled to meet in the White House today.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin praised Biden’s speech and cited him as a key ally on tackling climate change and Covid-19.

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The Taoiseach, speaking to reporters in New York, called Biden a “committed multilateralist at heart”.

Martin said he was “sure” Biden will tell Johnson “that it’s important that you engage with the European Union” around the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

China and coal

China has gone on an infrastructure-building blitz around the world as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and until now has been open to coal projects.

In a letter earlier this year, a coalition of non-governmental groups said that the state-run Bank of China was the largest single financier of coal projects, pumping $35 billion (€29.9 billion) since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015.

China, however, has kept investing in coal at home, preserving a form of industry that is also politically sensitive in the United States.

China brought 38.4 gigawatts of new coal-fired power into operation last year – more than three times what was brought on line globally.

On a visit to China earlier this month, US climate envoy John Kerry said the United States has made it “clear that the addition of more coal plants represents a significant challenge to the efforts of the world to deal with the climate crisis.”

China has promised to peak coal consumption by 2030 and go carbon neutral by 2060.

China’s promise comes as momentum builds for a Cop26 in November in Glasgow which aims to raise the ambitions of the Paris accord.

- Additional reporting by AFP.

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