China aims to bring carbon emissions down to net zero by 2060

Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced that his country aims to reach net-zero carbon by 2060 and estimates that its CO2 emissions will peak by 2030 - the first time he has made such a pledge to reduce China's contribution to climate change.

“China will scale up its intended Nationally Determined Contributions (to the Paris agreement) by adopting more vigorous policies and measures,” Xi said, while addressing the UN General Assembly. “We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.”

Xi urged countries to pursue a “green” economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and called for multilateral action on climate change.

China is currently the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases generating over 10 gigatons of CO2 per year - nearly twice that of the US. “Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of nature,” Xi said.

The announcement was cheered by climate campaigners. Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan called it “an important signal” that showed climate change is “top of (the) agenda for China”.

Patricia Espinosa, UN climate chief, hailed the speech, calling it: “A big shift for curbing emissions and a significant step forward in international cooperation”.

The goal will be challenging for China, which relies heavily on coal for its electricity generation, one of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels. It is one of the few countries still ramping up construction of new coal plants, while its use in the West plummets.

China’s 2060 date was applauded, although it is still a decade later than the net-zero goals being pushed for by the EU, Canada and other countries.

Frans Timmermans, who leads the EU executive’s efforts on climate change, welcomed President Xi’s announcement. “We need decisive action from every country to keep temperatures under control, tackle climate change and keep our planet inhabitable,” he said.

The US has so far not set such a goal and President Donald Trump has referred to climate change as a “hoax,” pulling the country out of the Paris Agreement in 2017.

However, Joe Biden, his Democratic presidential challenger and a former vice president, has included climate change on his list of major crises facing the US.

If China fulfils Xi’s goal, it could prevent 0.2-0.4°C further warming for the world, according to “very rough estimates” by MIT management professor John Sterman, who models and tracks emission reductions and pledges with Climate Interactive.

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