China can’t wean itself off overseas coal

(Eco Business, 12 Jun 2019) The world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter has made significant progress in cutting emissions at home, but continues to be the biggest funder of coal projects abroad, reports Purple Romero from the Innovate4Climate event in Singapore last week.

Even as China has slashed its domestic carbon emissions faster than other countries, the absence of a strategy to divest from coal projects abroad and the lack of a clear definition on what constitutes green finance threaten to undercut its contribution in fighting the global climate crisis.

“China has yet to publish a climate strategy to shift its investment in coal overseas,” Bai Yunwen, executive director of Greenovation Hub, a Chinese think-tank on environmental governance said at the World Bank’s Innovate4Climate (14C) forum in Singapore on June 5. “If we do not cut overseas flow in coal, we will lose the war.”

The world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, China is working hard to reduce its carbon emissions. The world must cut emissions by about 45 percent between 2010-2030 and reach net zero in 2050 order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its 2018 special report that capping global warming to 1.5°C could reduce risks to food security, economy and health.

paper published in May 2019 by the Breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration in Australia said that failure to drastically cut emissions gives rise to a scenario where about a billion people could be displaced by 2050. 

“Green finance” v. “climate finance”

China, however, plays the conflicting roles of being the world’s largest investor both in fossil fuels and renewable energy.     

While its renewable energy investments have reached US$44 billion in 2017, China has also invested US$35.9 billion in coal operations in 27 countries including Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

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Eco Business, 12 Jun 2019: China can’t wean itself off overseas coal