Countries have pledged to increase their emission cuts, boost renewables and end coal power at a climate summit aimed at accelerating the goals set out in the Paris Agreement in 2015.
The virtual Climate Ambition Summit was set up to keep pressure on countries to set out ambitious carbon reduction plans, after the planned COP26 climate talks were postponed due to the pandemic.
Many countries set out plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as well as ratcheting up short-term goals to drastically reduce greenhouse gasses in the next decade.
Following China’s recently announced pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2060, President Xi Jinping set out some of the practical steps the country would take in the next 10 years.
In his address, President Xi said China would lower carbon emissions by 65% per unit of GDP from 2005 levels by 2030 and grow renewable to 25% of its energy mix.
He said that China would increase its forest by six billion cubic metres from 2005 levels, and increase wind and solar power to 1.2 billion kw.
“China always honours its commitments – guided by our new development philosophy we will promote greener economic and social development in all aspects, while pursuing high quality development,” he said.
I welcome President Xiâs commitment to achieving carbon neutrality before 2060.— Alok Sharma (@AlokSharma_RDG) December 12, 2020
Looking forward to hearing more detail as China develops its 14th Five Year Plan and Nationally Determined Contribution ahead of #COP26 🇨🇳
Canada’s premier Justin Trudeau said that the country had raised its emission reduction ambitions.
He added: “We as a country will strive for the upper end of a range of 32% to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.”
Elsewhere, Pope Francis said the Holy See would reach net zero by 2050 and embark on an environmental education programme for the 70 million students in Catholic schools and universities around the world.
Both Italy and Argentina also set net zero goals.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan announced his nation would be focused on “nature-based solutions” including mass tree planting, as well as a ban on new coal power stations.
Mr Khan said that by 2030, 60% of Pakistan’s energy would be renewable, and 30% of its vehicles would be electric.
The US federal government was not represented as President Trump pulled the country out of the Paris Agreement – a step President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to reverse on his first day in office.
In a short speech, Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer said the huge toll of coronavirus on the US was evidence of what happens when officials “fail to prepare”.
“We cannot make the same mistake when it comes to the impending climate crisis,” she said.
Boris Johnson, co-hosting the event, warned climate change was far more destructive than Covid-19 which has gripped the world this year, but said there was now a surge of scientific optimism, as vaccines started to be rolled out.
A green recovery from Covid-19 could create thousands of jobs, he said, and the world could radically cut dependence on fossil fuels, change agricultural practices and reverse the processes “by which for centuries humanity has been quilting our planet in a toxic tea cosy of greenhouse gases”.
Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF-UK, said key players including China, the EU and the UK had set out action and ambition for the future.
She said: “The Prime Minister has made some bold and game-changing promises including a 68% emissions reduction by 2030 and a commitment to net zero by 2050 – as well as today’s pledge to working in global partnership.
“Now we need these new promises translated into swift, clear and measurable action to keep temperature rise to 1.5C avoiding the most dangerous climate change.”
But Tim Gore, head of climate policy at aid agency Oxfam, said the summit lacked “real ambition” and leaders must step up in the next 12 months to pull the world back from the brink of catastrophic climate change.
“We must not stumble from Covid-19 disaster into climate calamity,” he warned.