China will aim to hit peak emissions before 2030 and for carbon neutrality by 2060, according to President Xi Jinping.
Mr Xi outlined the steps when speaking via videolink to the UN General Assembly in New York, surprising delegates, given that current global climate negotiations remain stalled and this year’s physical conference of the parties has been postponed until 2021.
The announcement is potentially hugely significant as China is currently the world’s biggest source of carbon dioxide, responsible for around 28% of global emissions.
“We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060,” Xi Jinping said.
Until now China has said it would peak its emissions by 2030 at the latest, but it has avoided committing to a long-term goal.
According to a BBC report, the Chinese leader is taking advantage of US reluctance to address the climate question at this time, with reports from the BBC
“Xi Jinping’s climate pledge at the UN, minutes after President Donald Trump’s speech, is clearly a bold and well calculated move,” said Li Shuo, an expert on Chinese climate policy from Greenpeace Asia.
“It demonstrates Xi’s consistent interest in leveraging the climate agenda for geopolitical purposes.”
“By playing the climate card a little differently, Xi has not only injected much needed momentum to global climate politics, but presented an intriguing geopolitical question in front of the world: on a global common issue, China has moved ahead regardless of the US. Will Washington follow?”
Despite the surprise announcement, many questions remain. including what is meant exactly by carbon neutrality and what actions the country will take to get there. Nonetheless, most observers agree that the announcement from China is a significant step, not least because of the country’s role in financing fossil fuel development around the world.