United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres hailed the Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s, which the U.S. and China issued at the U.N.'s 26th climate conference (COP26) in November, as "an important step in the right direction." But the declaration includes very little in the way of new promises from China.
Under the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, countries report their plans to address man-made climate change as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Just before COP26, China submitted its supposedly updated NDC, which said it "aims to have carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030."
China set the same goal in a 2014 Joint Announcement on Climate Change, while also promising that it would "work to increase ambition over time." China's updated 2021 NDC did increase its 2030 target for non–fossil fuels, from 20 percent to 25 percent of primary energy consumption.
At COP26, the U.S. and the European Union launched the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to cut emissions of that potent greenhouse gas by 30 percent as of 2030. In the Glasgow Declaration, China said it intends to develop a plan to "achieve a significant effect on methane emissions control and reductions in the 2020s." That basically restated China's NDC pledge that "measures will be taken to effectively curb methane emissions from coal, oil and gas mining." Notably, China did not join the Global Methane Pledge.
In the Glasgow Declaration, China declared that it "will phase down coal consumption during the 15th Five Year Plan and make best efforts to accelerate this work." This is the same promise President Xi Jinping made at the Leaders Summit on Climate convened by President Joe Biden in April 2021. It means Chinese coal consumption will not begin to decline until sometime after 2026.
China, along with several other like-minded countries, refused to endorse the Glasgow Climate Pact until the phrase "phasing-out of coal" was replaced with "the phasedown of unabated coal power." Unabated means emissions from coal-fired power generation are not captured and sequestered somehow (e.g., pumped underground or absorbed by new forest growth). Phasedown implies that emissions will be reduced but not eliminated. Its NDC makes clear that China has no intention of phasing out coal anytime soon.
The Glasgow Declaration's empty platitudes confirm that China will not be hectored by the U.S. into making any significant changes to its climate policies.