Xi Jinping, having done little on global warming in four years, tells world he'll handle climate change

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Hard to believe it was just four years ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2017 when Chinese President Xi Jinping stole the show and the world’s climate agenda from a U.S. still reeling from the election of Donald Trump.

Four years later, having done little to advance that speech, Xi was the key speaker at the virtual Davos on Monday, and spent most of his time issuing veiled threats about cold wars and hot wars if countries didn’t act together on international issues and stop prying into each other’s affairs on domestic ones. What little he said about climate was in the form of a vague promise about sustainable development near the end of his talk, in which he indicated it was a problem he could solve.

“I have announced China’s goal of striving to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Meeting these targets will require tremendous hard work from China. Yet we believe that when the interests of the entire humanity are at stake, China must step forward, take action, and get the job done. China is drawing up action plans and taking specific measures already to make sure we meet the set targets,” he said.

For a world awaiting details of China’s emissions goals in its upcoming five-year plan, Xi was a disappointment. Perhaps not as disappointing, however, as the fact that the annual forum couldn’t be in the Swiss Alps this year, as Monday is usually the day the world’s corporate elite arrives by train and plane and revels in the breathtaking views of the snowy hills and valleys along the way.

The organizers of the forum, led by founder Klaus Schwab, are famously flexible, and are currently planning an in-person meeting in Singapore in May. Back in 2002, after the 9/11 attack a few months before, Schwab moved the entire meeting from Switzerland to New York to show support for the city.

As for the complaints that Davos is one big, carbon-loaded, invite-only party, well, the forum has been creatively offsetting for years. This year, though, like everywhere else thanks to Covid, Davos is a zero-carbon event.

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