EU, China climate chiefs to meet face-to-face ahead of COP26 talks

An attendant walks past EU and China flags ahead of the EU-China High-level Economic Dialogue at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

LUXEMBOURG, Oct 26 (Reuters) - European Union green policy chief Frans Timmermans will meet China's top climate envoy Xie Zhenhua face-to-face for the first time on Wednesday ahead of the COP26 summit, as pressure grows for tougher action to curb global warming.

A pledge from China to reduce emissions faster this decade is seen as crucial for the world to have a realistic shot at meeting the Paris Agreement's target to cap warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius and avert the worst impacts of climate change.

With Chinese President Xi Jinping not expected to attend, some climate watchers are concerned that the world's biggest CO2 producer does not plan on unveiling a new pledge at the United Nations event in Scotland.

But while Xi has not travelled outside China since before the pandemic, he has made three major climate announcements on the international stage, including a pledge at last month's U.N. general assembly to stop funding coal plants abroad.

At their meeting scheduled to take place in London on Wednesday, Xie and Timmermans will "go through the latest developments and see where we all stand in these last few days before the COP26 officially begins," an EU official said.

The 27 countries of the EU were among 143 to increase their climate pledges this year, out of the nearly 200 that signed the Paris accord. The EU has committed, in law, to cut net emissions at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050.

China is among the major emitters that has yet to submit a new climate target. It has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2060 and stop increasing its emissions before 2030, although it has not pinned down a date by which its emissions will peak.

"We hope that China would make an ambitious announcement on peaking out [emissions] and we hope China would also make ambitious announcement on investing in renewables to replace, especially, coal," Timmermans told Reuters this month.

"It makes a huge difference, when they say 'before 2030', whether that's 2025 or 2029," Timmermans said, adding that faster emissions cuts from China would have a "huge positive impact" on the Paris Agreement targets.

Reporting by Kate Abnett and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Alexander Smith

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