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Low-carbon target should not affect energy, food security in China: President Xi

FILE PHOTO: A surveillance camera is seen near a coal-fired power plant in Shanghai, China, October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

President Xi Jinping stressed that China’s ambitious low-carbon targets should not come at the expense of energy and food security, or regular people’s “normal lives,” signalling a more cautious approach to climate change as the economy slows.

The news: China, the world’s largest emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases, has been pressed to “increase ambition” and adopt more extreme measures to combat global warming.

  • However, in the face of rising economic woes, China is concerned about the threat to jobs and growth, particularly as it prepares for a critical Communist Party conclave that is anticipated to extend Xi’s reign.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for a ceremony at the Monument to the People’s Heroes on Tiananmen Square to mark Martyrs’ Day, in Beijing, China September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

What they’re saying: In a speech delivered late Monday, Xi urged senior Communist Party leaders that China needed to “overcome the notion of rapid success” and go slowly.

  • “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.
  • Chinese leaders have often stated that the government will “prioritise stability” in 2022, following a national economic work meeting held at the end of last year.
  • Zhang Bo, Chief Engineer of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, told reporters earlier this week that the country would not impose tight water quality objectives on local governments, but would instead encourage them to “consolidate” recent advances.
  • After a wave of shortages plagued manufacturers last year, Xi also urged Party leaders that “the gradual withdrawal of traditional energy must be based on the safe and reliable replacement by new energy.”

China has committed to speed up the transition to renewables, but it will not begin to reduce coal usage, which is a major source of CO2, until after 2025.

In December, China’s central planning agency announced that it would remove blanket limitations on energy usage to guarantee that environmental goals do not stifle growth.

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