China and Russia join push on climate change action

International momentum is building around the race to net zero

The impact of climate change seems to be resonating with the leaders of Russia and China who have committed to significant targets.

President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree ordering Russia to work towards the goals of the Paris climate agreement. The decree, which was published in late October, orders the government to try and cut greenhouse gas emissions of up to 70% against 1990 levels by 2030.

Russia finally ratified the Paris climate agreement in 2019, signalling a shift in policy for the world’s fourth largest greenhouse polluter.

However, it soon ditched plans to set greenhouse gas emissions targets for companies following lobbying from big businesses that risked fines if they did not comply.

Climate change poses a serious risk for Russia, where thawing permafrost potentially threatens damage to the country’s energy pipelines and infrastructure.

It is also huge challenge for an economy heavily reliant on oil and gas production and mining. The government estimates the economic loss could be over $2.3bn a year.

In September, China declared plans to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, which is huge news for a country that emits around a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions.

This would make it the biggest contributor to carbon emission reductions out of any country, potentially lowering global warming by up to 0.3 degrees centigrade.

However, the claims have been greeted with scepticism from some experts who question whether it is possible for the country to meet carbon neutral targets with the country’s current expansion of coal.

The US became the first country to officially leave the Paris climate agreement on 4 November but that now looks set to change with the election of President Biden, who has promised to take the US back into the accord.

Biden has proposed what is the most ambitious programme to tackle the climate crisis of any president. His plan includes a $2trn clean energy and climate change package, which would be spent over four years.

It would support renewable power, overhaul heavy industry, transportation and electricity.

Biden’s goal is a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, with net-zero emissions throughout the economy by 2050.

Former President Trump, who once described climate change as a “hoax”, pulled the US out of the Paris accord in 2017 and has reversed dozens of climate change regulations during his presidency.

However, if Biden wants to roll back the changes Trump made, he could run into problems due to opposition from the US Senate.

Last Updated: 13 November 2020
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