China Pushes for Renewable Energy Substitution in Climate Deal

China's climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, indicates the country's willingness to find a compromise on phasing out fossil fuels.


China Expresses Support for Renewable Energy Transition

China's chief climate official, Xie Zhenhua, stated that China would like to see nations agree to substitute renewable energy for fossil fuels. However, he did not explicitly state whether China supported or opposed a phase-out of fossil fuels. Xie Zhenhua and his delegation are actively engaging with other nations to find a compromise on this contentious issue at the Cop28 UN summit in Dubai.

An indication of China's possible compromise was revealed through a joint statement made with John Kerry, the US climate envoy, in November. The statement emphasized the promotion of renewable energy deployment as a gradual and orderly substitution for oil, gas, and coal power generation. Xie Zhenhua mentioned that another option being considered is to gradually reduce the share of fossil energy in the global energy mix.

China's Challenges and Transition Process

China, being the world's biggest emitter and second biggest economy, heavily relies on coal. Xie Zhenhua acknowledged that oil-producing countries might face challenges in transitioning away from fossil fuels due to their dependence on oil revenues. He emphasized the importance of understanding, support, and cooperation among nations to find the best solution that addresses these issues while accommodating the needs of all parties.

Xie Zhenhua also shared China's efforts to reduce coal production and develop renewable energy. China has set strict controls on coal production for the 14th five-year plan period (2021-2025) and aims to gradually reduce coal production during the 15th five-year plan period. The installed capacity of renewable energy in China has already surpassed that of coal power, indicating significant progress. However, further development is needed to overcome technical difficulties and ensure the rapid and robust growth of renewables.

Potential for a Compromise and Global Engagement

Xie Zhenhua's statements suggest a potential softening of China's position or a willingness to seek compromise at Cop28. However, it remains uncertain if China will agree to any specific wording on fossil fuels in the final climate deal. The outcome of the negotiations in Dubai will be crucial in determining the success of this climate summit.

While the US-China Sunnylands agreement sets a baseline for the negotiations, it is essential for other countries to actively build upon this framework to achieve greater global ambition. The remaining days of Cop28 need to see active engagement from all nations to ensure the success of the summit and address the urgent climate crisis.