Xi talks with UK PM ahead of COP26, underscores China’s pledges on climate change
Published: Oct 29, 2021 07:06 PM
China UK Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese President Xi Jinping held a phone conversation with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, which opens in Glasgow, Scotland on Sunday. Xi reiterated China's determination in fulfilling its promises on cutting emissions in tackling climate change and stressed the principle of a common but differentiated responsibility.

Analysts said the Friday conversation showed China's stance on being actively engaged in climate talks and also adhering to its own pattern. 

During the conversation, President Xi stressed that China has announced targets on achieving carbon neutrality and carbon dioxide emissions peak and an array of detailed measures, which means a series of wide and deep social and economic efforts. China's resolution to speed up green development is unshakable. 

China supports the UK's role in hosting COP26 and adheres to the principle of a common but differentiated responsibility to encourage all parties to turn ambition into concrete actions, Xi said. 

Johnson congratulated China for successfully hosting the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15). He said that the UK hopes to maintain close communication with China on dealing with climate change and conservation on biodiversity to promote global sustainable and balanced development.

The phone conversation was made two days before COP26, which will be held in Glasgow on Sunday. The last phone call between Xi and Johnson was in March 2020. 

Bilateral relations entered into a bumpy period in 2020 due to unfriendly moves by the UK, including its interference with China's domestic affairs regarding its Xinjiang and Hong Kong regions. 

The phone call ahead of COP26 demonstrated China's clear roadmap and steps on achieving carbon neutrality to the UK and the international community, Zhao Chen, a research fellow at the Institute of European Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Given China's indispensable role in climate change talks, the UK also hopes China will play a part in uniting the world to tackle climate challenges, Zhao said, adding that the Friday conversation shows that China has been actively engaged in global efforts on climate issues. 

China on Thursday submitted a renewed emissions reduction plan that promised to peak carbon emissions by 2030, achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, and slash its emissions intensity - the amount of emissions per unit of economic output - by more than 65 percent. 

G20 Photo:VCG


Some Western countries and media outlets have pressured China to make more radical pledges on cutting emissions. In response, Chinese experts said that as a developing country, China has done its utmost in making plans and implementing them, and developed countries should also take more responsibility.

Zhao said that President Xi also made the point clear during his conversation with Johnson that China's pledges on carbon neutrality are not easy to fulfill as it involves sacrificing some opportunities for development. But China is determined to fulfill its promise.  

President Xi's pledge at the United Nations General Assembly in September that China will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad is seen by observers as a sign that China is devoted to curbing global warming with the firmest determination and greatest efforts.

With the UK hosting COP26 and China hosting COP15 this year, the UK and China have a unique opportunity to work together to protect our planet, our economies and our livelihood, and we will play an active role in negotiations and use COP26 to deliver solutions that also support biodiversity, Caroline Wilson, British Ambassador to China, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on October 13

The relationship between China and the UK was also mentioned during the Friday conversation. Xi stressed that mutual trust is the basis, recognition is the premise and properly managing disputes is the key to promoting bilateral relations. China hopes the UK will respect the truth, and take comprehensive and objective views on China's development pattern and its systems. The increase of China-UK trade amid the coronavirus pandemic proves again that bilateral cooperation is mutually beneficial.

Xi noted that China and the UK can make the Beijing Winter Olympic Games an opportunity to deepen sports cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. The two sides should also practice true multilateralism.

Johnson said that he agreed with Xi's advice on developing China-UK relations. The two countries share a consensus and common interests on global public health, global economic recovery, the Iran nuclear issue and counterterrorism. They need to promote candid communication and friendly cooperation, he said. 

The past year has witnessed China-UK relations slipping from the previous Golden Age to an "ice age," some experts said, citing the UK's interference in Hong Kong region and groundless accusations about "human rights violations" in Xinjiang as well as engagement with the US' anti-China actions, including the AUKUS trilateral security partnership. 

However, Johnson has also recently made some remarks that have been interpreted as small changes in his stance on China. For example, he said at a parliamentary committee in July that he doesn't want "anti-China spirit" to lead them to try to "pitchfork away" every Chinese investment into the UK, after members of parliament raised concerns about the acquisition of Newport Wafer Fab, a Welsh-based semiconductor manufacturer by a Chinese company. 

Previously in July 2020, the UK government announced that the UK's mobile providers would be banned from buying Huawei 5G equipment from the end of 2020. In addition, the government required operators to remove all Huawei equipment from the UK's telecommunications network by 2027.

President Xi noted in the conversation on Friday that China welcomes the UK to export more products to China, and expand cooperation in the medical field, green development, digital economy, finance and other fields. China hopes the UK will offer a fair and non-discriminatory environment to Chinese companies and China will do the same for British companies, he said.

2022 marks the 50th anniversary for the establishment of ambassadorial-level diplomatic relations between China and the UK. The two sides should take the opportunity to deal with challenges and work together to promote getting bilateral relations on the right track, Xi said. 

Boris said that the UK is willing to deepen cooperation on economy and trade, education and clean energy. The UK welcomes Chinese companies' investment and is willing to create an open environment. The UK is willing to work with China to promote bilateral relations, he said.