China takes the climate stage

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This was supposed to be a big year for climate politics. It has lived up to expectations. But not, perhaps, in quite the way Europe had imagined.

In January, sights were set on the next round of the United Nations climate conference, ‘COP26’, scheduled for Glasgow in November, just days after the elections in the United States. The strategy of the European Union was to broker a deal with China to raise its national commitment under the terms of the Paris Agreement of 2015. To get there, diplomatic attention focused on the EU-China summit billed for Leipzig in mid-September.

Then the coronavirus hit. COP26 was postponed. Given the origin of the viral outbreak in Wuhan, relations between China and the west deteriorated sharply. Leipzig was downgraded to a conference call.

The online exchanges were, by all accounts, meatier than expected. But that was no preparation for what happened next. On September 22nd, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, made a surprise announcement: China would aim for carbon neutrality ahead of 2060.

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