Can China help end the world’s addiction to coal?

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Beijing has won international praise for announcing that it will stop funding coal projects in the developing world – but it is still heavily reliant on the fossil fuel for rapid economic growth at home. The Guardian’s global environment editor, Jonathan Watts, explains why China took such a significant step before Cop26 – and how much there still is to do


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Last week the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, made a hugely significant announcement when he promised to stop funding coal-fired power projects around the world. The news was greeted as a sign of Xi’s commitment on the climate crisis, and a big boost before the crucial Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November. However, experts want to know when the change will come into practice. They warn that China’s plans for continued economic growth are heavily reliant on coal at home – and that its thousands of coal plants are a huge contributor to its status as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas.

In this episode, the Guardian’s global environment editor, Jonathan Watts, who spent a decade reporting from Beijing, joins Nosheen Iqbal to explain the recent history of China’s reliance on coal, and reflect on why it has made this announcement now. And he sets out the reasons to be hopeful on the basis of Xi’s announcement, and the reasons to remain concerned that China – and the world – are not moving quickly enough.

The Huaibei coal-fired power plant in Haibei city, Anhui province, China.

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