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China’s ambition can make a crucial difference on climate

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Mary Robinson urges China and its international partners to act together to strengthen climate action, in a keynote address to the 20th Boao Forum for Asia.

This keynote speech was delivered on 19 April 2021.

Chair of the Boao Forum, my dear fellow Elder Ban Ki-moon, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a privilege to address you today on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Boao Forum. I am only sorry that I cannot be with you in person, but I am glad to be able to join you virtually at a time when global dialogue is more essential than ever in tackling our common challenges.

COVID-19 has underscored how indispensable, effective and ambitious multilateralism is in tackling existential threats, and the need for inclusive and open dialogue between China and the rest of the international community.

We need exactly the same spirit in the face of another shared challenge: the climate crisis.

China’s ambition and commitment helped secure the Paris Agreement in 2015. This year, two more critical opportunities are on the horizon: the Chinese-hosted biodiversity conference in Kunming in October, and the climate COP in Glasgow the following month.

China’s actions at home and abroad can make a crucial difference.

President Xi’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 is a powerful sign to states, to companies and to investors worldwide. The challenge now is how to translate this into faster action in the near-term, so emissions peak as soon as possible. Frankly, 2030 is too late!

President Xi’s commitment to a “green Belt and Road Initiative” is another important signal. In this regard, I welcome indications that China is no longer supporting coal-fired power plants in at least one partner country, and is turning instead towards solar, wind and other renewable energy alternatives.  

I hope that in the months leading up to COP26, we will see ever further details and commitments on how China will strengthen its climate goals, including by bringing forward the date when its emissions will peak, and by ushering out coal within its borders and across the Belt and Road Initiative.

Following the recent Ministerial on Climate Action hosted by China with Canada and the European Union, President Biden’s climate summit on 22 April, Earth Day, is another milestone. Close collaboration between China and the US was crucial in the run-up to Paris in 2015, and I hope a similar spirit will be found again on the road to Glasgow.

The road ahead is challenging, not least due to the impact of COVID-19. But if we move forward in a spirit of constructive multilateralism and adhere to the shared values and targets of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, I have every confidence that we can deliver successful climate action this year and bequeath a prosperous and healthy planet to future generations.

Thank you.


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