Transcript: Chinese Climate Envoy's press conference at COP 26
Xie Zhenhua's answers on the climate crisis to journalists in Glasgow
On November 2, 解振华 Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, gave a press conference in Glasgow during the ongoing COP 26.
Your Pekingnologist hasn’t been able to find a transcript of that press conference online so decides to mount a private effort to get it “on the record” to facilitate dissemination, attribution, and discussion in a wider audience on the accounts given by Xie Zhenhua, by all accounts a well-respected climate diplomat. Otherwise, the world only has various fragmented reports and recollections from the very limited number of people in that room.
This is based on one participating journalist’s audio recording of the press conference which includes both Xie’s spoken Chinese and a consecutive interpretation in the room. 廖宸婕 Larissa Chenjie Liao, a junior student in Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University and contributor to Yang Liu’s Beijing Channel newsletter, spent hours helping transcribe it. Based on that, your Pekingnologist further edited it.
The English-language part below is almost solely based on the audio recording, with limited revision from Pekingnology. All the words within brackets () were added by Pekingnology based on the Chinese-language answers, since consecutive interpretation - as good as the interpreter has done her job - has its own limits. All the emphasis is by Pekingnology.
Yes, this is a bit late - nearly two weeks have passed since this press conference, and China and the United States have since surprisingly issued a joint statement. But the climate crisis is the biggest challenge to humanity and a private effort is needed, albeit based on extremely limited resources.
It’s likely this transcript includes some errors. The audio recording has been uploaded to Google Drive so you can cross-check it. In case you cite any part of this transcript, it would be appreciated if you include a link - better still, a brief introduction - to this newsletter.
As always, you’re welcome to send feedback if you find any errors, and upon confirmation, they will be promptly updated here.
Based on the audio recording, there a total of 10 questions from China Central Television, Phoenix TV, BBC, The Guardian, China Daily, the Straits Times, the Associated Press, Xinhua News Agency, CNN, and Reuters - in that order.
Some highlights from your Pekingnologist:
Up to now, there is still a large gap between the support required (of developed countries) and the support provided (by them). For instance, and by now, by 2021, developed countries have largely failed to honor the commitment of 100 billion US dollars annually for climate finance.
Now adaptation only gets 20% of all the climate finance, which is far from enough. That is why the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres suggested a 50-50 split between adaptation and mitigation. In climate finance, China fully supports that proposition.
Money and technology (is required for such a huge market as China and the world), which is why enterprises should play a key role in this process to provide finance and technology. We need also to cooperate with the research institutions and NGOs.
Paris goal is a goal for the world. It’s not a (one-cut) goal for each individual country (where everyone is required to achieve the same thing at the same time). If we follow this principle, some countries need to achieve carbon neutrality well before 2050, some at 2050, and some after 2050. These are determined by the national circumstances and development stage of each and every country. If we are to enhance our ambition at this COP 26, apparently, the effort of developed countries is still far from enough.
Our planned in-plan in-stored capacity for wind and solar power will exceed 1,200 gigawatts, more than the current total in-stored capacity of the United States [around 1,100 gigawatts]. This is a demonstration of our effort and our ambition.
We think that Article 6 is quite significant for achieving the Paris goals using market-based instruments. China is highly supported in finalizing this issue during this COP.
Whenever we talk about temperature goals, these are goals for the whole world, not for any individual country. The goals for each country are set by these individual countries based on the principles of CBDR (Common But Differentiated Responsibilities) and also based on the national capabilities, circumstances, and starting point. Even for the global stocktaking that will take place 5 years from now, what the world will do is to evaluate the gap between the world's aggregated progress and the overall target and then determine how to improve our action and support to achieve the overall global goal.
If you look at the story (China’s power shortage) from another perspective, it's a reflection of the Chinese effort and seriousness to adjust our energy structure and limit the use of coal. These problems may be associated with some one-size-for-all policy adopted by the local government, but actually, I think it also can be regarded as a reflection of our seriousness and determination to apply more renewable energy and reduce the consumption of coal.
(Greetings to colleagues from the media.) I notice that you all come from very important media organizations. I will not give quite very long opening remarks because that would take too much time from you.
So how about we go directly to Q&A, and I will try my best to answer your questions. If we can not finish answering all the questions today during this news briefing, we can find time later to take your questions. For this COP26, President Xi cannot attend the world leaders summit physically, but he pays high attention to this event and has given a written statement for the World Leaders Summit and COP26. This statement is now available on the website of UNFCCC. We have also shared printed copies to all the delegations participating in COP26. Perhaps some of you already have a copy with you. That's great. So perhaps we can go directly to the questions.
So, Any questions？
We start from this lady.
1. 中央广播电视台 China Central Television
Q: I'm with China Central Television. My question is, according to our big data, we found that since the signing of the Paris Agreement, developed countries have largely failed to honor the commitments. And they are increasingly having contradictory words regarding their commitments and actions. While for China, we have become increasingly self-confident in promoting our ecological civilization. So I would like to seek the view from Minister Xie. How do you view this progress China has made in promoting ecological civilization? What's the experience China has gained in its effort？
A: The Paris agreement is a milestone in the multi-lateral process of addressing climate change. The purpose of the Paris Agreement is to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The agreement is a highly inclusive one. It has said the global climate target and the principles we should follow with the effort from all parties. It has also made clear the requirements and provisions on adaptation, mitigation, finance, technology, capacity building, and transparency.
Also, in the Paris Agreement, there were some quantified requirements. So we should say that both the decision and the Paris Agreement are highly inclusive. The most important work for us to do is to implement this decision and agreement and reflect it in our concrete actions.
After the COP 26 summit in Copenhagen (in 2009), all parties have submitted the action plans and commitment before 2020 and there are NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) before 2030. And also at the multi-lateral process, developed countries pledged to provide 100 billion US dollars annually before 2020 to developing countries. In the meantime, we have established a mechanism for technology, innovation, cooperation, and transfer. We also aimed to help developing countries improve their capacity for adaptation and for coping with climate change. Developed countries are also required developing countries to enhance transparency. But in this regard, it is also important for developed countries to provide support to developing countries so that they can enhance transparency. Also, in terms of adaptation capacity, developed countries also need to provide financial and technological support.
But up to now, there is still a large gap between the support required and the support provided. For instance, and by now, by 2021, developed countries have largely failed to honor the commitment of 100 billion US dollars annually for climate finance. Some say that there were already 80 billion dollars available. Some say that there is still a large gap. (What’s the large gap?) At least around 20 billion. I recently talked to COP26 president Alok Sharma, John Kerry (of the United States), and ministers from many other countries. They told me that we need to wait until 2022 or even 2023 to achieve the US $100 billion targets. (From there on) they said that there will be a huge increase in terms of climate finance beyond 2025. However, they fail to deliver the commitment before 2020, which has a negative impact on the mutual (political) trust between developed and developing countries.
My discussions with John Kerry and Alok Sharma were highly constructive. We aimed to discuss the issues to be addressed at COP26. And in our discussions, we found there were still huge gaps. Actually, the Paris Agreement stipulates that there should be a balance between mitigation and adaptation. But now adaptation only gets 20% of all the climate finance, which is far from enough. That is why the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres suggested a 50-50 split between adaptation and mitigation. In climate finance, China fully supports that proposition.
Now I take your second question and share with you the China experience. For China, we have exceeded in advance (of) our 2020 targets. We should say that China has taken a coordinated economic development path. For us, our baseline year for NDC is 2005 and now I'd like to share with you China’s progress has been achieved compared to 2005.
For all countries around the world, measures are taken to address climate change, focus on energy conservation, improve energy efficiency, improve the industrial structure, promote renewable energy, and increase forest carbon sink. Now I would like to share with you some data to show what kind of progress and effort China has achieved and made.
For China, we have already an in-store capacity for renewable energy of 890 gigawatt, which accounts for 32% of the world's total and 53% of the (world’s) newly added renewable energy.
For the past 8 years, China has been the world's number one in terms of investment in renewable energy. Because of our efforts in developing renewable energy, the cost (of renewable energy) has actually been driven down significantly. Now renewable energy is competitive compared to conventional energy resources in China. With our continuous effort, the cost continues to go down.
In terms of energy-saving and improving energy efficiency compared with 2005, our energy consumption per unit GDP declined by 42.4%, which means a reduction of 2.2 billion tons of standard coal. And our carbon intensity decreased by 48.4%, meaning that we have reduced our CO2 emissions by 5.7 billion tons. Our commitment is to reduce carbon intensity by 40% to 45%. And now we have exceeded our set target.
According to statistics of the World Bank, in the past 20 years, China aggregated energy saved accounts for 58% of the world total. But our energy efficiency still has large room to be improved. Even though we have achieved such great progress, we are still 1.7 times higher than the world's advanced level. So there is still a great potential for us to further enhance our energy efficiency.
And energy conservation and energy efficiency improvement has also contributed to our economic development. Another area we have invested great effort in is transportation. On one hand, we greatly promote public transportation. On the other hand, we developed clean transportation, especially electric vehicles. Now we have a total of 6.78 million clean vehicles among which 5.52 million are electric vehicles, accounting for more than 50% of the world total.
To support the development of electric vehicles, we have built a lot of charging piles for electric vehicles. Now we have a total of 2.23 million charging piles, meaning that for every three electric vehicles that will be one charging pile available.
Another area of our effort is to increase forest carbon sink. Forest carbon think is an important indicator of our NDC. We have increased our forest storage by 5.1 billion cubic meters. Our target was to increase by 40 to 45 cubic meters. This is another area we have exceeded our set targets. We have also largely increased forest coverage in China. The number is 23.04%, which accounts for more than 20% of the newly added forest coverage in the world.
This was achieved since 2005. In this time our GDP increased by 3.3 times. We have also successfully alleviated more than 100 million rural people from poverty. We can see that we can achieve addressing climate change by protecting the environment, while the economy grows. And we have gradually stepped on the path where decarbonize our economy from carbon emissions.
I know you have a great interest in our nuclear power development. China will continue to develop nuclear power while ensuring safety. Coal accounts for a large proportion of our resources endowment. So we need to develop nuclear power as a supplement. Now China has a total in-store capacity of nuclear power of 570 gigawatts. Our aim is to build (at least) 1,200 gigawatts by 2030. To help you better understand this number, I put it in context. The total in-store capacity of the United States is 1,100 gigawatts.
We can make this news briefing a little longer and so that I can take a question from every one of you.
2. 凤凰卫视 Phoenix TV
Q: I'm with Phoenix TV. At COP26, I have discussed this with some government representatives from developing countries. They all have an interest in the Chinese role in addressing climate change. They wondered how can we promote cooperation with China and Chinese companies. Does China have any plan to carry out such cooperation and which areas can we carry out such cooperation? If not, are there any difficulties or challenges?
A: 这个问题要这样，为了COP26能够取得成功,为了使各国的 NDC能够通过合作来共同推动整个进程，今年以来，我们已经和美国的气候特使克里先生，我们两个人进行了频繁的对话。面对面的交流有三次，通过视频对话有24次，加起来是27次。我们发表了中美气候变应对气候危机联合声明，其中谈到了近期要做三件事，中期做三件事，然后中美要在8个领域开展合作。另外蒂莫曼斯先生，欧盟的第一副主席和我们中国的常务副总理韩正副总理，建立了一个气候跟环境的一个对话机制，搞了两次，发表了中欧关于气候变化的一个联合公报，实际上也确定了将近有若干个领域的合作。
A: To ensure a successful COP26 and to promote climate corporation among all parties, we have had multiple runs of discussions and dialogues with US counterpart John Kerry. This year we already had 24 online meetings and three face-to-face meetings. We released a joint statement on addressing the climate crisis in which we identified three things we plan to do in the near term and three things to do in the midterm as well as eight areas for cooperation. I've also had meetings and discussions with Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission. After Frans Timmermans meeting with the Chinese first vice-premier Han Zheng. They jointly released a communique on the cooperation between China and the EU and also identified specific areas for cooperation.
Those areas are basically energy conservation, promoting energy efficiency, promoting reliable energy, and shifting from fossil to reliable energy. In this process, we need to address some issues including the safety and stability of great energy storage and the development of CCUS (Carbon capture, utilization, and storage) technology.
Besides energy saving and energy efficiency, we have also agreed to jointly promote a circular economy, save resources, and promote the efficiency of resource utilization. We've also agreed to carry out cooperation in green building as well as green and low carbon transportation.
We will both ratify the Kigali Amendment and carry out cooperation in terms of methane emission and Non-CO2 greenhouse gases, emissions saving from aviation and navigation, and also to increase forestation and forest carbon sink.
We have also decided to carry out cooperation in nature-based solutions. We also agree that it is important for enterprises and local governments to participate in these operations. This year, our National Development and Reform Commission, NDRC, has already organized three seminars engaging CEOs from multi-national enterprises. And we shared with them during these seminars, our policies and measures to be taken to achieve our target of peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060. These CEOs are quite interested in this because they see there is a huge market and they are willing to participate in this cooperation. Also, We have organized a forum, (on) China-US cooperation on low-carbon and smart cities. We have organized these dialogues and discussions among Chinese provincial governors and US state governors. We both agree that it is important to have enterprises participate in this process and they should play a major role. China is ready to carry out cooperation with enterprises from around the world.
Recently, I have the delegation received in China, headed by Alok Sharma, the COP26 president. I’ve also had virtual meetings with representatives from many countries, including the special representative of President Vladimir Putin, ministers from Japan, Germany, Norway, France, Singapore, Denmark, Grenada, BASIC countries, Like-Minded Developing Countries and the chairman of Vulnerable Countries who's from Bangladesh. We have had in-depth and extensive exchanges of views and coordinate is our positions. We all agree that we need to be constructive to ensure a successful COP26 (and cooperations on climate change).
Also, back in Beijing, I have had face-to-face meetings with 21 ambassadors from EU member states. We discussed how to promote cooperation between China and the EU. We all agreed that to achieve the Paris goals, the world needs to work (together). For instance, according to United Nations statistics, we need 100 trillion US dollars to achieve our global climate goals. For China to achieve our National Determined Contributions, NDC, and long-term vision, we need a total investment of 136 trillion RMB (according to some of the estimates). So we can see that money and technology (is required for such a huge market as China and the world), which is why enterprises should play a key role in this process to provide finance and technology. We need also to cooperate with the research institutions and NGOs. Only through doing this, can we achieve the target of not only China but the world as a whole.
Q: Ahead of COP26, a lot of people were expecting China to take the leadership on world climate issues. Recently, however, things that happen to the west received is [compreter?]. For example, the recent coal, the really more coal energy the last year. The decision by Xi Jinping to 【53:09 ???】 at most recently, the failure to produce new ambitious NDCs for this meeting. Given that background, some Chinese allies, friends are disappointed. China has not assumed the position of a global leader. What does the minister reply to that？
A: That's not only one question. That's a series of questions. I need to take them all.
[interpution from an unknown journalist in the room] Q: Excuse me, could it be possible to answer in English? Is that possible?
A: 你拿中文问我问题不就完了吗？How about you raise your question in Chinese?
The respective national determined contribution should be based on the national circumstances of each country. This is also in line with the requirements of UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. The NDCs should follow the principle of equity, respective capacities, CBDR (common but differentiated responsibilities), and in the light of national circumstances. Just now I shared with you Chinese progress made in terms of energy-saving and energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, and building. Actually, China has contributed from 30% to 50% of the world's total progress. That's apparent to see.
China’s NDC was updated in September last year. It was after the EU released its green deal. Along with our updated NDC, we also released our long-term vision. We should say that China took the lead to release our NDC and long-term vision and assumed our leadership by setting good examples. Many other countries only released the NDCs after China.
Chinese NDC is already updated and it's already very ambitious. Our NDC is that we need to achieve CO2 emission a peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. That's a huge difference from around or by. I think it's already quite ambitious. I also think that climate targets are not simply climate targets. It's closely linked to social, economic development, environmental protection, and employment and we need to transfer our system to systemically achieve our climate goals.
Also, we have said that we need to facilitate transitions in many areas. But for the energy sector, what President Xi Jinping said was to have a revolution to change our energy, to optimize our energy sector. Only by doing that, can we truly optimize our energy mix. Our goal is to strictly control coal consumption during the 14th 5-year-period. That's before 2025. During the 15th 5-year-period, that's before 2030, we will gradually reduce our coal consumption. There is a very clear pathway in this regard for coal.
(Also, for coal-fired power plants, since you need to develop renewable energy massively) And for China, our renewable in-store capacity already accounts for more than 1/3 of our total in-stored capacity. For now, we need to also develop some coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants, and natural gas-powered fire power plants to ensure the stability of our grid. We need also to address problems such as energy storage and electricity transmission. So we need some time (as a transition period) to achieve this goal and after we passed this period there will be accelerated adjustment in our energy mix.
In some cases, we may need to build some new coal-fired power plants to ensure there's safety and stability of our power grid. But for those newly built coal-fired power plants, all apply to the highest possible standards in terms of technology, emission, and energy consumption. In the process, we have decommissioned a huge number of coal-fired power plants with a total installed capacity of 120 million kilowatts. To put this in context, the total installed capacity of the UK is only around 80 to 90 gigawatt. We're substituting old coal-fired power plants with high-standard new coal-fired power plants.
(Note on Nov. 22, 2021: Two sentences here are highlighted because an earlier version of the transcript published here includes errors, which were notified by a careful reader. The errors have since been amended here.)
Just now I also mentioned that for China, we will vigorously develop renewable energy before 2030. Our planned in-plan in-stored capacity for wind and solar power will exceed 1,200 gigawatts, more than the current total in-stored capacity of the United States [around 1,100 gigawatts]. This is a demonstration of our effort and our ambition.
I know you are all very interested in China's coal-fired power plants abroad. President Xi Jinping already announced that China will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad. So does this mean that China has a lot of coal-fired power plants overseas in the past? That's not true. According to statistics I have at my hand, among all the top ten overseas investors on fossil fuels or even among the top 7, none of them are Chinese companies or entities. Actually China ranks quite low on this list of overseas investment in fossil fuel and our investment has already been on the decline. So that is why we decided that we will shut off. We will just stop building new coal-fired power projects abroad.
A certain big country told me that they plan to build 500,000 charging posts for electric vehicles, and I told them that for China we already have 2.22 million charging piles for electric vehicles. And we will continue to build more.
Just now I shared with you that the Chinese aim is to peak our CO2 emissions before 2030. We will not only make promises. We honor our words by real actions. We have already released an action plan for peaking our CO2 emissions and we will take action in ten major areas. Now I will share with you those ten areas. First is the green and low carbon transition of our energy sector. The second is to promote energy-saving and efficiency. Third, carbon peak in our industrial sector. Fourth is carbon peak in urban and rural areas. Fifth is the transportation sector. Sixth is a developed circular economy. Seventh is scientific innovation. Number eight is a forest carbon sink and number nine is the engagement of all people in the country. The tenth is the tiered peaking of all of the different regions of the country, meaning that different regions of the country need to peak at different times. (covering all major sectors.)
Whether a target or a goal is ambitious, the key is concrete actions to implement these goals. That is why in his written statement, President Xi stressed the importance to focus on taking concrete and pragmatical actions. I think it is important to have policies, measures, actions, and investments to support the implementation of our target and goals. We need to have clear timetables and a road map to achieve our goals. This is the true ambition we need to have.
[Moderator] 我们再次提醒各位记者只提一个问题，要不然可能要不到那么多。I need to remind you to limit your question to only one.
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4. The Guardian
Q: Thank you for holding this press conference. Thank you for the question. In the Paris agreement in 2015, we signed up to 2 temperature targets. It's 2°, pursuing a reference to 1.5℃. Since then, science should even more clearly from the IPCC that 1.5 is much safer. 2℃ is dangerous. This conference is focusing on keeping to 1.5°C. Just China agrees that it will seek to put all its efforts into achieving 1.5℃ as the limit rather than 2℃? [some are inaudible]
A: You're an old friend. Every time I attend COP and have news briefing, you always represent The Guardian to raise questions to me. For the Paris Agreement target, actually, it says that we need to pursue an effort to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is actually a very inclusive target, it’s also based on the IPCC report, so it's science-based. I think it's an achievable target because it’s a range giving parties room to make effort. I understand that recently the first working group of IPCC released a report, in which there are suggestions. There is also a synthesis report on NDCs by the UNFCCC secretariat. There’s an emissions report by UNEP. I have already read these reports.
I understand that the report of the first working group of IPCC stressed the urgency of climate change and has linked it to human activities. It stressed that climate change is no longer a threat in the future, but one existing crisis we are facing now. That is why the joint statement between China and the US was named a joint statement on addressing the climate crisis. (Which is to say the problem is increasingly realistic and severe.) Even though we think that this report did not exceed the scenarios as described in the previous IPCC report. It's still within the scenarios.
I think that the Paris goals are science-based, rule-based, inclusive, and achievable. It is a quite realistic target. Actually, the 1.5℃ target is already included in the Paris goals. And I think it’s not quite different from what people are now saying keep 1.5℃ within range. For the Paris agreement, the world already has a consensus on that. If we are to only focus on 1.5℃, (some countries will say that) we are destroying this consensus among all parties and many countries are demanding re-opening of negotiations. If we ought to change the target to only 1.5℃and that will take a lot of time (which we don’t have). It will be a quite long process. So what I'm saying is that we need to be realistic, to be pragmatic and to correctly interpret the Paris Agreement goals, and focus on taking concrete and real actions.
(Can we do it?) To achieve the Paris goal of limiting global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we cannot achieve it by only making a commitment, making promises. We need real actions and concrete actions. We need to facilitate transitions in our economy and society. We cannot achieve this goal with our current pattern of consumption and life. We need also to promote technological innovation and also to improve the multi-lateral process. To summarize it, we need all to make efforts and carry out cooperation. Only by setting new targets, we are not solving our problem. We need a very clear pathway, roadmap and to promote innovation and cooperation to achieve the target we already said.
Recently the International Energy Agency released a report. (I very much agree with it.) It says that if we are to achieve net-zero emissions or carbon neutrality by 2050, then we need to take into consideration historical responsibilities, the starting point of different countries, different abilities, and national circumstances. We need to follow the principle of CBDR (common but differentiated responsibilities).
In this regard, developed countries need to take the lead to cut the emissions and to provide finance and technological support to developing countries because the Paris goal is a goal for the world. It’s not a (one-cut) goal for each individual country (where everyone is required to achieve the same thing at the same time). If we follow this principle, some countries need to achieve carbon neutrality well before 2050, some at 2050, and some after 2050. These are determined by the national circumstances and development stage of each and every country. If we are to enhance our ambition at this COP 26, apparently, the effort of developed countries is still far from enough.
5. China Daily
Q: I just want to find out your confidence level about Article 6 will be finalized at COP26.
A: Actually, before COP26, I have had extensive discussions with many countries, including the US, the EU, Brazil, and Friends of the COP26 President who are responsible for coordination on the issue of Article 6. We discussed how to address the issues related to Article 6.2, 6.4, and 6.8. I think that there is a broad consensus that we need to address, to finalize the outstanding issues regarding Article 6 during this COP including the corresponding adjustment in Article 6.4, how to link Article 6.2 to Article 6.4, profits sharing.
These issues are still under negotiation, but I think as long as all parties can be constructive and can agree that we need to cut emissions using market-based instruments at the lowest cost, there is a possibility that we can finalize these issues during this COP. The Paris agreement has already entered into force for six years. It will be difficult for us to explain to the world why we haven't finalized these issues after so many years and it is also important for us to prove the effectiveness of multilateralism to the world by addressing these issues.
The issue of Article 6 was the issue with the biggest divergence back in Katowice. China was not at the center of this problem. We have coordinated and discussed with the EU, Brazil, the United States, and Canada. There was broad consensus among us. But due to some technical problems, we didn't finalize this issue and it was postponed to Madrid. We also had extensive discussions with those countries at COP25 and reached a broad consensus. But unfortunately, due to some coordination issues, it was again not addressed. We think that Article 6 is quite significant for achieving the Paris goals using market-based instruments. China is highly supported in finalizing this issue during this COP.
6. The Straits Times
Q: My question is on the impact of the energy crisis. Many Chinese cities are faced power cuts in recent days. That really highlighted China’s still strong dependency on fossil fuel single energy. It's by far the largest investor of renewable energy. It's just an example of China’s immense energy needs. So do you think the current energy crisis will accelerate Chinese plans to invest faster in renewable energy efficiency? Within mind also the climate change in comparison.
A: The recent energy crisis in China and the cut down of electricity supply is only temporary. Because we have set the target of achieving a CO2 peak before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060, we are now taking active measures to adjust our energy mix and launch a revolution in our energy sector. As a result, the price of coal has risen while the price of electricity has not. Considering the profit, some coal-fired power plants decided to reduce supply. That is why there is a shortage of energy supply recently.
And now this problem is being addressed. First of all, we have authorized those electricity plants, coal-fired power plants, to adjust the price by 20% (which has slowly alleviated the problem). And another reason for this energy crisis is because we recently suffered from huge floods in several provinces as including Henan and Hubei. And these have hugely impacted our renewable energy generation. If you look at the story from another perspective, it's a reflection of Chinese effort and seriousness to adjust our energy structure and limit the use of coal. These problems may be associated with some one-size-for-all policy adopted by the local government, but actually, I think it also can be regarded as a reflection of our seriousness and determination to apply more renewable energy and reduce the consumption of coal.
I think that’s a very professional question you have raised. For China, we are determined to increase the share of renewable energy in our energy fix but we have to address serious problems including the safety of our grid, energy storage, and development of CCUS Carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies. You know that renewable energies are also intermittent (what to do with grid security?). We have to do a series of work to ensure the stable and safe development of renewable energy. Recently I discussed with the US and EU and proposed to them that this can be an area where we can have cooperation.
7. the Associated Press
Q: I'm with the Associated Press. It seems like for a long time, there's been a pattern whenever some US administrations are blamed for not doing more to address climate change, they point to China and say China is the biggest matter of question, and we won’t do anything until China does more. And China in turn points to the US's status as the world's largest emitter over time.
So in that context, yesterday at COP, President Biden acknowledged that the United States had caused and the other developed nations had caused much of the climate damage. And he said that the United States and developed nations had an overwhelming obligation to least developed nations that are now struggling with climate change that was not caused by them. So that came from the world's largest historical emitter. But currently, China is the largest emitter and it's the country currently causing the most contribution to climate change. Does it bear responsibility for the climate change, any responsibility for the climate change, a mention, the rest of the world will face, and does it have any obligation to the people who are living with that obligation? How are you living with that obligation?
I have been engaged in climate negotiations for 12 years. Actually, the issue of historical responsibility is a heated debate issue. In negotiations of the Paris agreement, all parties agreed that the reason for climate change is the irrational emissions from developed countries through industrialization and urbanization. And all countries agreed that developed countries have historical responsibilities in terms of causing climate change.
Then how to address this problem of climate change? All parties agreed that we should all make our biggest efforts possible according to our different stages of development, capabilities, and national circumstances. Different countries need to assume different responsibilities. For China, we have already made our biggest possible effort to address climate change. We know that the world is on the same boat and we need to pull together and make our biggest contribution possible.
So on this boat, who has the biggest capability? It's the developed countries. That is why developed countries need to take the lead to cut emissions. And at the same time provide financial and technological support to developing countries. It is clearly stated in Article 4 of the Paris Agreement that the world needs to take action together and achieve carbon peaking and carbon neutrality as early as possible. And in the meantime, developing countries need more time. It is acknowledged that developing countries need more time to achieve carbon peaking and carbon neutrality.
For China, we are a developing country and we currently have a per capita GDP of only around $10,000, while for developed countries, including OECD countries, the United States, the EU, when they peak their carbon emissions, their per capita GDP was between $25,000 to $30,000 or even much higher above that.
In terms of per capita emissions, our per capita emissions will be much lower than that of developed countries when we reach our CO2 peak. So regarding the fact that China is the current largest emitter, it's because (of the history). You all know about the Kuznets curve, that China is now at the height of this curve due to some historical factors. But for China, we have already tried our best to lower the number of our highest CO2 emissions while shortening the time from peak to carbon neutrality. We need to view the situation with a holistic perspective and take historical factors into consideration.
China will take only 30 years to move from carbon peaking to carbon neutrality. The number is 45 to 50 years for the United States and 60 to 70 years for the European Union. So we said that China has already demonstrated very huge ambition in this regard. In my discussions with my US counterpart, he told me that the United States highly respects the principle of CBDR and will not require China and other developing countries to shoulder the same obligation and responsibilities as the United States. Regarding your question, I think this has already been clearly stated in Article 4 of the Paris Agreement. It says that to achieve the temperature target set in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, countries need to achieve global carbon peaking as early as possible while taking into consideration that developing countries need more time to achieve carbon peaking and after that， making use of the best available technologies，countries will rapidly reduce their carbon emissions. And this effort must be linked with our unsustainable development and poverty eradication. And also it says that our goal is to achieve in the second half of this century balance between and through emissions by sources and remove all by six.
With the joint efforts of China and the United States, the Paris Agreement was reached, signed, and entered into effect. But after that, the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement. In that context，President Xi stressed the importance of the Paris Agreement and said that it's a reflection of the world's general trend and should not be abandoned easily. But for sure in the United States, we have already wasted 5 years. Now we need to work harder and catch up.
8. 新华社 Xinhua News Agency
Q: I'm with Xinhua News Agency. Following the questions raised by the Associated Press, I would like to ask you whether China will take a shorter time to move from carbon peaking to carbon neutrality? What difficulties and challenges China may face in this process?
A: Indeed, it will be quite a short time for China to move from carbon peaking to carbon neutrality. It is a demonstration of our effort and ambition. But on the other hand, this also presents an arduous task and a huge challenge for us. That is why we need to promote transition and innovation. President Xi especially stressed in his written statement that we need to accelerate our transition driven by technological innovation and stressed the importance to harness innovation in science and technology to transform and upgrade hour energy and resources sectors, as well as the industrial sector and consumption pattern, promote a greener economy and society and explore a new pathway forward that coordinate development and conservation.
These are the requirements from President Xi Jinping. And now we have already taken concrete actions to implement these requirements. For instance, we recently released a guiding opinion on achieving carbon peaking to carbon neutrality with 37 articles to clearly identify our roadmap, timetable, target, and specific actions. In a series of areas, we will have a holistic transformation in our economy and society.
It will be hard work. And the investment to do this work, the money needed to do this work, will also be huge. According to the estimation of one institution, it will be 138 trillion RMB and another institution estimated it to be around 400 trillion RMB. Of course, Money is important, but the more important is for us to have technological innovation. Recently the Ministry of Science and Technology of China released a document to state the policies and measures to be taken to encourage technological innovation so that we can achieve our carbon peaking to carbon neutrality target. Recently there is a new technology developed by the Chinese Academy of Science, which is to turn captured CO2 into starch. With those technologies available, we are willing to share them with the whole world and promote the achieving of the global overall target.
Q: I’m with CNN. We say that the goal of limiting global warming preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius is a goal for the world and not individual countries. But as you see, as developing countries, do you not agree that the people of China, as well as the people in developing countries all over the world, would be real sure to see China finally advocate that aim for the world instead of being resistant?
A: I do not resist the 1.5℃ target. It is a part of the Paris Agreement goals actually. (How would I resist that?) When talking about the global climate goals, we need to be based on rules. Since 1.5℃ is a part of the Paris goals, I certainly will not be against this target. What I stressed here is that the world needs to focus on how to implement this 1.5℃ target. I have been involved in international climate negotiations for more than 10 years, as I said, and I want to tell you that whenever we talk about temperature goals, these are goals for the whole world, not for any individual country. The goals for each country are set by these individual countries based on the principles of CBDR and also based on the national capabilities, circumstances, and starting point. Even for the global stocktaking that will take place 5 years from now, what the world will do is to evaluate the gap between the world's aggregated progress and the overall target and then determine how to improve our action and support to achieve the overall global goal. Of course, the national targets are set and need to demonstrate the biggest possible effort of each individual country.
Actually, these targets have already been reflected in the joint statement between China and the US, the joint communique between China and the EU, and the ministerial declaration, environment and climate ministerial declaration of the G20 and G20 leaders summit. This wording on the global temperature goal are decided not only by China but through extensive discussions among all parties. (You are welcome to check it out, China is not against the target.)
What we want to see from COP26 is reaffirm the Paris temperature goal. And on the basis of that, we can find a direction for our future work.
(Jake Spring from Reuters saying if possible he would first raise his question in Chinese and then repeat it in English.)
好，更好了。Good, that’s even better.
My question is if Xi Jinping’s statement yesterday...if originally China wanted to give a video statement but was only allowed by the UK to give it in writing. I’m wondering if the written statement was weaker. Then a video statement would have been…?
This is a question actually that has been asked by many other media recently. Due to his busy domestic schedule, President Xi cannot attend the World Leaders Summit and COP26 physically. However, he pays high attention to addressing climate change and has already made 7 to 8 statements on climate change from September last year to now. We have actually discussed with the UK government as the host and the UNFCCC secretariat to see whether (using a video or) I can read President Xi's statement on the summit on his behalf. But due to the requirements of the host that was not possible. Nevertheless, the written statement is now available online and we have already circulated it to all the delegations participating in COP26. What we want is to make our voice heard. I think in this process, we are also demonstrating our support to this COP.
Thank you. It’s my great pleasure to have this news briefing, engaging all the major media in the world. I think we have finished all the questions here. If there are any more questions, please come to our China office. Our door is always all open to you. China has a very open and transparent attitude and we are willing to discuss any questions you may have in the future. Thank you for your time.
Again, many thanks to 廖宸婕 Larissa Chenjie Liao, a junior student in Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University and contributor to Yang Liu’s Beijing Channel newsletter, who spent hours helping transcribe the audio recording.