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UK to end support for fossil fuels overseas: PM Johnson

Highlights

Major policy shift as taxpayer support to end for fossil fuels

China unveils modest increase to 2030 climate targets

Pakistan to stop building coal-fired power plants

London — The UK is to end direct support for fossil fuel projects overseas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Dec. 12 as the UK co-hosted the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 with the UN and France.

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The UK's move came as over 70 world leaders convened a virtual summit to discuss renewed ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions on the fifth anniversary of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

"Climate change is one of the great global challenges of our age, and it is already costing lives and livelihoods the world over. Our actions as leaders must be driven not by timidity, but by ambition on a truly grand scale," Johnson said ahead of the summit.

"That is why the UK recently led the way with a bold new commitment to reduce emissions by at least 68% by 2030, and why I'm pleased to say today that the UK will end taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects overseas as soon as possible."

The UK's move marks a significant departure from existing policy.

In the last four years, the government supported GBP21 billion ($27 billion) of UK oil and gas exports through trade promotion and export finance.

"The world-leading policy will see the UK end export finance, aid funding and trade promotion for new crude oil, natural gas or thermal coal projects, with very limited exceptions," the Prime Minister's office said in a statement Dec. 12.

"Today's announcement will expedite the shift to supporting green technology and renewable energy, creating jobs across the UK and driving international growth in the industry," it said.

The policy will be implemented after a short period of consultation and is intended to come into force as soon as possible, before the COP26 UN climate talks which the UK is set to host in Glasgow in November 2021.

The government will work with the UK's oil and gas sector to support the move to low carbon energy sources through the North Sea Transition Deal, ensuring areas like Teesside and Aberdeen can become global hubs for wind energy, carbon capture and other clean technologies of the future, it said.

China ramps up climate targets

Also speaking at the summit, China's President Xi Jinping said China would raise its climate target by reducing the country's CO2 intensity of GDP growth by over 65% by 2030 from 2005 levels -- a moderate increase from the existing goal of a 60%-65% reduction.

China would also increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25% by 2030 and bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1,200 GW by 2030, Xi said.

That means an almost tripling of the 415 GW installed at the end of 2019, according to the US Natural Resources Defense Council.

China's new commitments are seen as a way to align its mid-term climate targets with a goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2060, unveiled in September.

Also speaking at the event, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said the country would stop investing in any new coal-fired power plants.

The latest commitments came soon after EU nations Dec. 11 backed a stronger target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030, compared with the existing 40% target.

Meanwhile, US President-elect Joe Biden has said the US would re-join the Paris Agreement soon after his presidency begins in January. A longer-term target to reduce emissions to net-zero is to follow.

The UK's business secretary and President of COP26, Alok Sharma, said that even with the renewed goals, the collective effort to rein in greenhouse gas emissions still fell short of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 -- the core goal of the Paris Agreement --suggesting more action will be needed.