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China’s new NDC – E3G responds

Comparing China's 2016 and 2021 NDC
Comparing China’s 2016 and 2021 NDC

China summitted its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) today. It is the first update from China since its first submission in 2016. 

The headline targets in the revised NDC are a step up from the 2016 submission but they are not new – these are the same numbers that President Xi announced during the UK-hosted Climate Action Summit last December. 

The Emissions Gap Report published by the UN environment agency shows that, unlike other major economies, China urgently needs to strengthen and set more ambitious near-term climate targets to deliver President Xi’s 2060 goal announced in 2020.  

Without additional climate action in this decade from China, the largest polluter and home to half of the world’s coal power plants, the aspiration goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise within 1.5C will be out of reach. At COP26 China should commit with all other countries to coming back with more ambitious targets by 2023 at the Global Stocktake. 

The announcement today and the domestic climate policies published earlier this week also do not give us any clues about the future of coal in China. China alone is home to half the world’s coal power plants, both those existing and those still proposed for construction. In comparison, OECD countries are accelerating their transition out of coal power generation while the rest of the non-OECD are pivoting from dirty coal to clean energy. 


Nick Mabey, CEO of E3G, said: 

Despite massive reductions in the cost of clean technology and worsening climate impacts globally, China hasn’t clearly committed to reduce emissions in the 2020s in these new targets. This is disappointing and a missed opportunity.  

Byford Tsang, Senior Policy Advisor at E3G, said: 

Today’s announcement tells us nothing new. But there is still a lot Beijing could do outside of these targets in the next two weeks at the G20 Summit in Rome and COP26 in Glasgow – supporting a political commitment to keep 1.5C within reach & put an expiry date on coal in its coal power system, and to show the world that it’s serious about being a global leader on climate.  

Chris Littlecott, Associate Director at E3G, said: 

President Xi stated in September that China will cease building coal plants abroad, recognising that its overseas coal finance was a stain on its international leadership. But domestic action is also necessary. As home to half the world’s coal power plants, China is inescapably in the international spotlight as the rest of the world looks for an explicit statement that China too will move from coal to clean. This will require additional commitments & efforts from China to further restrict new coal construction and accelerate the retirement of existing capacities 

Belinda Schäpe, Researcher at E3G, said: 

China’s updated target reflects the ambition announced by President Xi Jinping at last December. But things have changed since a year ago. The recent “code red warning” by the IPCC puts China’s targets into a different light and increased ambition from China is crucial to keeping global warming below dangerous levels. 

Available for comment on China’s new NDC

Byford Tsang, Senior Policy Advisor – China  
m: +44 7931 317 327  

Belinda Schäpe, China Researcher – China 
m: +44 7864 802176 

For further enquiries email or phone +44 (0)7783 787 863 

Notes to Editors 

  1. E3G is an independent climate change think tank accelerating the transition to a climate safe world. E3G specialises in climate diplomacy, climate risk, energy policy and climate finance. -> About 
  2. To receive updates and analysis from COP26 via E3G’s daily media WhatsApp broadcast, register here


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