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China’s Overseas Coal Pledge: What Next for Cambodia’s Energy Development?

In September 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced in a speech to the UN General Assembly that China aimed to hit peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 (Xi 2020). The statement focused on China’s domestic emissions, but in the months that followed, there was much speculation about what it would mean for China’s involvement in overseas coal power plants. Just short of one year later—again, in a speech to the General Assembly—President Xi addressed this speculation, stating that China would no longer build new coal-fired power plants abroad (Xi 2021). This section of the speech is worth quoting in full:

We need to improve global environmental governance, actively respond to climate change and create a community of life for man and nature. We need to accelerate transition to a green and low-carbon economy and achieve green recovery and development. China will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. This requires tremendous hard work, and we will make every effort to meet these goals. China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad. (Xi 2021; emphasis added)

After years of campaigning by local and international civil society groups to bring an end to the construction of new coal plants, this statement was welcomed, but a number of questions remain. What does ‘build’ mean? Which projects will be regarded as ‘new’? When will this come into effect?

Continue reading this article on The People’s Map of Global China.

Featured image: Stung Hav coal power plants​. PC: ​Dmitry Makeev​ (CC).
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Mark Grimsditch

Mark Grimsditch is the China Global Programme Director at Inclusive Development International. He closely follows trends in both private and state-backed Chinese investment in Southeast Asia and Africa. He has published extensively on the trends, impacts, and regulation of China’s overseas finance and investment, particularly with respect to land and natural resource rights and the environment. He has expertise on the social and environmental safeguards of various national and multilateral financial institutions and works with local partners to monitor and advocate for improved environmental and social practices in Chinese overseas projects.

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