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Xi Says Low Carbon Push Must Guarantee Energy, Food Security

Chinese President calls for economic stability and cautious approach to climate change, in contrast to US climate envoy John Kerry who says the world is “in trouble” and “not on a good track”

Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping told senior Communist Party leaders in a speech published late on Monday that China needed to "overcome the notion of rapid success" and proceed gradually. Photo: Reuters


Ambitious low-carbon goals should not come at the expense of energy and food security or the “normal life” of ordinary people, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said, signalling a more cautious approach by Beijing to climate change as the economy slows.

China, the world’s biggest source of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions, has been under pressure to “enhance ambition” and take more drastic action to tackle global warming.

But amid mounting economic challenges, China is worried about the risk to jobs and growth, especially as it prepares to hold a key Communist Party conclave that is expected to extend Xi’s rule.

Xi’s remarks coincide with a warning by US climate envoy John Kerry, who said on Monday that the world was “not on a good track” and efforts to counter climate change urgently need to be ramped up.


‘We’re in Trouble’: Kerry

“Let’s be factual, above all, but let me also be blunt and hopefully motivating: We’re in trouble, I hope everybody understands that. Not trouble we can’t get out of, but we’re not on a good track,” Kerry said at a US Chamber of Commerce event designed to build momentum for the COP27 climate conference in Egypt in November.

The Arctic is warming at a rate quadruple that of the rest of the planet, the former secretary of state said. “We’re already seeing tipping points arrived at.

“We’re also seeing the impacts in floods and fires and mudslides and the extraordinary heat, which is growing in various parts of the world.”

Kerry also voiced concern about the uptick in coal production and use – the dirtiest of fossil fuels – over  the past year, particularly in China.

“Most countries have the ability to deploy very significant additional amounts of renewables and they’re not choosing to do that,” he said.


Economic Stability First

Xi, meanwhile, told senior party leaders in a speech published late on Monday that China needed to “overcome the notion of rapid success” and proceed gradually.

“Reducing emissions is not about reducing productivity, and it is not about not emitting at all,” Xi was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying.

“We must stick to the overall planning and ensure energy security, industrial supply chain security and food security at the same time as cutting carbon emissions,” he said.

Since a national economic work meeting held at the end of last year, Chinese policymakers have repeatedly stressed that the country would “prioritise stability” in 2022.

The approach has already started to feed into policy making, with Zhang Bo, Chief Engineer of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, telling reporters earlier this week that the country would not impose strict water quality targets on local governments, and would instead encourage them to “consolidate” previous gains.

With energy supplies still a major concern after a wave of shortages hit manufacturers last year, Xi also told Party leaders that “the gradual withdrawal of traditional energy must be based on the safe and reliable replacement by new energy.”

China has promised to accelerate the shift to renewables, but will only start to reduce coal consumption – a major source of CO2 – after 2025.

China’s state planning agency also said in December that it will loosen blanket restrictions on energy consumption in order to ensure environmental targets do not erode growth.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard





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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.


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