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In a rare speech to the UN General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday made a major new climate commitment on behalf of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter.
China will not build any new coal-fired power projects abroad, Xi said in a recorded speech before the assembly.
The promise marks a change in policy for its massive infrastructure project known as the 'Belt and Road Initiative', which had already started to scale back its coal-related projects.
China will also increase financial support for low-carbon and green energy projects in other developing countries, he said.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who had earlier called on world leaders to show solidarity and act in the face of the climate crisis, praised China's announcement along with the United States' commitment to increase to address the climate crisis in developing countries.
(Credit: AP / Mary Altaffer, Pool)
"I am encouraged by the important announcements made today in the General Assembly by the leaders of the world's two largest economies regarding their commitment to climate action," he said.
"I welcome President Biden's announcement that the United States will significantly increase its international climate finance to approximately $ 11.4 billion a year. This increased contribution from the United States will bring developed countries closer to fulfilling their collective commitment to mobilize $ 100 billion a year in financing "to tackle climate change, he said.
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"I also welcome President Xi's announcement that China will end all financing of overseas coal-fired power plants and redirect its support to green and low-carbon energy. Accelerating the global phase-out of coal is the next step. most important to keep within reach the Paris Agreement target of (keeping the temperature rise within) 1.5 degrees. "
In a speech earlier in the assembly, US President Joe Biden had announced that he would work with Congress to re-double the country's financial commitment to support developing nations.
Biden promised in April that the United States would increase its contribution to global financing to address the climate crisis to $ 5.7 billion per year.
His new commitment brings the figure to more than $ 11 billion a year.
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"In April I announced that the United States would double its international public funding to help developing countries cope with the climate crisis, and today I am proud to announce that we will work with Congress to double that figure again, including for adaptation efforts. "Biden announced before the UN General Assembly.
The commitments of China and the United States are framed in a day of speeches by leaders during the beginning of the UN General Assembly.
Guterres began the meeting by warning that humanity is on the way to a "hell" of rising temperatures that would bring a "catastrophe".
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Guterres called on countries to end subsidies for fossil fuels and coal use, invest in renewable energy and tax carbon and pollution "instead of people's income."
"The weather alarm bells are ringing frantically as well," he said.
"The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a code red for humanity. We see the warning signs on all continents and regions: scorching temperatures, scandalous loss of biodiversity, polluted air, water and natural spaces", remarked.
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More than a decade ago, world leaders from developed countries agreed to contribute US $ 100 billion a year to support developing countries facing the most direct impacts of climate, a goal that was not met.
In 2019, developed countries contributed $ 79.6 billion to developing countries, about $ 20 billion below the annual target, according to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
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The United States was also criticized for not transferring any funds during the Trump administration, who withdrew the United States from its global climate finance commitments when it pulled out of the Paris climate accord.
Under the Obama administration, the US paid $ 1 billion out of a $ 3 billion commitment it originally made in 2014.
Even with Biden's new commitment, America's allies are contributing more to the effort.
For example, the European Union spends around € 25 billion a year (the equivalent of US $ 29.3 billion).
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China has invested heavily in new coal-related projects abroad in the past.
According to the Green Belt and Road Initiative Center, which reviews the Belt and Road Initiative, China had announced or planned $ 160 billion worth of coal plants globally between 2014 and 2020.
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While reducing its share abroad, Beijing also has important work to do at home, where coal remains the main source of energy by far.
China consumed more coal than all other countries in the world combined in 2020, a study by the Ember research group showed.
Coal accounted for 58% of the country's energy demand in 2020, according to the National Statistics Office.
Although Beijing has repeatedly pledged to "strive" to reach maximum carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve neutrality by 2060, that 2060 decarbonization target is still a decade behind those of the United States and the European Union.
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The assembly is the last large international event before world leaders meet for the G20 in Rome in October.
This meeting will be followed by the UN climate conference in Scotland.
"We are weeks away from the UN climate conference in Glasgow, but apparently light years away from achieving our goals," Guterres said in his opening speech.
"We have to get serious and act fast."
Richard Roth contributed to this report.
Richard Roth contributed to this report.