Xi Jinping announced on Tuesday that China will stop building coal plants abroad, a significant step in reducing global emissions from the dirtiest of fossil fuels.
In a pre-taped address to the 76th United Nations General Assembly, the Chinese president said: “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.”
His remarks come as global leaders ramp up their commitments to tackle the ever-worsening climate crisis ahead of the UN summit, Cop26, in the UK in a matter of weeks.
China is the largest public financier of overseas coal plants. Last week an alliance of 35 NGOs pressed the Bank of China to end the financing of such projects outside China.
The bank has pumped more than $35billion into coal plants since the 2015 Paris Agreement was signed with the aim to reduce emissions and curb global temperature rise to 1.5C. China continues to invest in domestic coal plants.
The announcement garnered praise from political figures and policy experts.
Alok Sharma, the UK’s Cop26 president, tweeted: “It is clear the writing is on the wall for coal power. I welcome President Xi’s commitment to stop building new coal projects abroad - a key topic of my discussions during my visit to China. At COP26, we must consign coal to history.”
In a statement Dr Kevin P Gallagher, director of the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, said:“China deserves great praise for pledging to stop building coal plants overseas — the first developing country to make such a pledge and the last of the major public financiers of overseas coal to do so.
“Now that the world’s major governments have led by example and banned overseas coal plants, it is time for the private sector — which finances 87 percent of overseas coal — to follow suit. We will not meet our global climate and development goals if the private sector continues to finance overseas coal while leading governments have stopped.”