EGEB: China vows to triple wind, solar at UN summit, so will the US compete?

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • China says at the UN virtual climate summit that it will triple its wind and solar in 10 years.
  • The US didn’t attend the UN virtual climate summit. What’s its green energy plan?
  • UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

China’s latest wind and solar pledge

China’s President Xi Jinping vowed at Saturday’s UN virtual Climate Ambition Summit to nearly triple the country’s wind and solar capacity during the next decade.

The UN summit, hosted by the UK, included more than 70 heads of state. It marked the Paris Agreement’s fifth anniversary. The Paris Agreement commits countries to take action to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels and keep them to 1.5C.

The Financial Times reports:

President Xi’s appearance was the most anticipated, as he pledged China would cut its carbon intensity, which measures emissions relative to gross domestic product, by more than 65% by 2030. This was an increase from its previous goal of 60-65%.

It would also increase wind and solar installed capacity to 1200GW by 2030, Mr Xi said, up from 415GW at the end of 2019.

China is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2060, a target it announced in September, and Mr Xi’s comments on Saturday were the first indication of what paths the country will take to reach that goal.

Environmental activists feel that China, the world’s largest CO2 emitter, could do more. Li Shuo, a climate adviser at Greenpeace, said:

[China’s new target] demonstrates good will.

However, Beijing has the potential to do more. Making its emissions peak earlier than 2025 is still something it should strive for.

The US’ green energy future

The US is the world’s second-largest CO2 emitter. It did not have a representative at the UN summit over the weekend. That’s because Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement. But President-elect Joe Biden released a video demonstrating that the US will rejoin the Paris Agreement immediately after Biden is inaugurated:

Biden has committed to net zero by 2050 and chose John Kerry as the US’ “climate czar.” The US will hold a climate summit that will include the world’s major economies early next year, and Biden sent a written statement to the summit shortly before it began [via the Guardian]:

I’ll immediately start working with my counterparts around the world to do all that we possibly can, including by convening the leaders of major economies for a climate summit within my first 100 days in office … We’ll elevate the incredible work cities, states, and businesses have been doing to help reduce emissions and build a cleaner future. We’ll listen to and engage closely with the activists, including young people, who have continued to sound the alarm and demand change from those in power.

We’ll do all of this knowing that we have before us an enormous economic opportunity to create jobs and prosperity at home and export clean American-made products around the world.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: 

It is a very important signal. We look forward to a very active US leadership in climate action from now on as US leadership is absolutely essential. The US is the largest economy in the world, it’s absolutely essential for our goals to be reached.

Did the summit move the needle? Sort of; it really depends on what the US does next, and large economies like Russia, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil need to get their acts together. Nathaniel Keohane, a senior vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, said:

The [Climate Ambition] Summit captured and reflected the momentum of recent months, but didn’t push much beyond it. The world is waiting for Biden to bring the US back into the Paris agreement, and will be looking for how ambitious the US is willing to be in its [nationally determined contribution] NDC.

NDCs are detailed national plans that set out emissions curbs.

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EGEB: China vows to triple wind, solar at UN summit, so will the US compete?


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