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Australian Financial Review: China vows to improve action on climate change as it prepares for UN summit

 Global

Shanghai | China says it can "do better" on policies to tackle climate change after hitting its existing carbon emission targets early, but the world's biggest polluter stopped short of committing to new goals ahead of a key United Nations climate change summit in Poland next month.
China's top official overseeing climate change also took a swipe at US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris accord last year and said on Monday that developed countries should do more to help poorer nations fund alternative energy sources.
In a separate briefing, Chinese officials said it was still too early to expand a nationwide emissions trading scheme (ETS) to other sectors outside of power generation, lowering expectations that the world's second-largest economy was moving closer to putting a price on carbon.
China's role in the climate change debate is being followed closely ahead of United Nations talks in Poland next month. Beijing wants to take a leadership role in efforts to broker a global agreement now that the United States has pulled out of the Paris accord.
Any moves by China to reduce its reliance on fossils fuels is being followed closely by Australian miners. Coal is Australia's second-biggest export to China after iron ore.
"We will fulfil our promises 100 per cent. We will try to do better," Xie Zhenhua, China's top official overseeing climate change policies, told reporters on Monday.
He was referring to President Xi Jinping's commitment to source 15 per cent of the country's energy from renewables by 2020 and make efforts to hit its emissions peak by 2030.
China said it already met its 2020 target to cut CO2 emissions by 40-45 per cent from 2005 levels three years ahead of schedule. It was just shy of its 15 per cent target on renewables at 13.8 per cent currently.
Asked if China would raise its target, Mr Xie said the onus was on developed countries to fulfil their promises under the Paris accord and support developing countries by helping them fund investment in alternative energy sources.
"We would like developed countries to fulfil their promises seriously," he said.
"I must say that [Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris accord] did have an impact in the beginning, but that impact is waning at the moment," he said.
Zhang Zhongxiang, dean of Ma Yinchu School of Economics at Tianjin University, said he did not think China would set more aggressive emissions targets because the country's economic growth was slowing. He said China's environmental policies would likely be loosened in the current economic environment, but it would still want to clean up air pollution in cities like Beijing..
BHP's climate change practice lead Graham Winkelman, who will be Poland for next month's summit, said he did not expect China to back away from efforts to reduce carbon emissions. "We have been on this trajectory for a while now. There is momentum in the system towards decarbonisation and it is hard to see that changing," he said.
In Australia, the Morrison government has ruled out a major shift in its climate change policy, even though the issue was seen as a factor in the election of an independent in the Sydney seat of Wentworth last month. The government has said it was confident about meeting targets to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, but has ruled out increasing emissions reduction targets.
China in December launched its long-awaited national emissions trading scheme, but it was limited to the country's power generation industry, which only made up about 39 per cent of the total. Li Gao, the head of the climate change office at China's Ministry of Ecology and the Environment, said on Monday it was too early to extend the scheme to other sectors.
Climate Action Tracker said on its website that China's CO2 emissions rose in 2017 as coal use increased for the first time in three years, and oil and gas demand also rose.
While it was confident China could meet its targets, it still ranked its contribution to tackling climate change as "highly insufficient" . Despite efforts to clean up its own cities, China has also been criticised for supporting coal projects in other nations in South America, Africa and South-East Asia.
Original Source: https://www.afr.com/news/world/asia/china-vows-to-improve-action-on-climate-change-as-it-prepares-for-un-summit-20181126-h18cq4