China’s Xi says world’s largest polluter will phase down coal consumption

China vows to start phasing down coal consumption from the 2026-2030 period as part of its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, President Xi Jinping told the U.S.-led Climate Leaders’ Summit Thursday.

“We will strictly limit the increase in coal consumption over the 14th five-year plan period (2021-2025) and phase it down in the 15th five-year plan period (2026-2030),” Xi told the virtual gathering.

China is the largest coal consumer and continues to approve new coal projects. This latest pledge implies a peak in its use in 2025.

In fact, Chinese coal consumption is poised to hit a record this year, the International Energy Agency said earlier this month, a bump up that contradicts the view held by some climate change and energy experts that coal burning in the world’s second-biggest economy and largest polluter had already peaked.

Overall, as the world economy claws back from COVID-19 and due to the expected 4% surge in Chinese coal demand, global carbon emissions will rebound in 2021, the IEA said. “The future of both Chinese and global coal demand depends on the Chinese electricity system,” the IEA’s report said.

China pledged last year that it would bring its overall emissions to a peak before 2030 and hit net zero emissions by 2060.

President Joe Biden has pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by the end of the decade, the White House said Thursday.

The pledge makes it more likely the U.S. can meet its own goal of net zero emissions by 2050, a common refrain from a Biden administration that has made combating climate change a fixture of the first 100 days in office.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor Thursday, said it is unfair to expect U.S. industry to make the changes necessary to meet Biden’s quickened emissions target when China and other major pollution emitters can’t be forced to adhere.

Japan, another heavy user of coal, announced its own new 46% emissions reduction target Thursday. South Korea used the Biden summit to say it would stop all public financing of new coal-fired power plants.

South Korea’s move is seen as an important step that climate groups hope will help keep China and Japan on track with their moves to slow their own building and funding of coal power.

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