President Xi pledges China to go carbon-neutral by 2060

President Xi pledges China will hit peak emissions before 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2060

  • The Chinese leader made the announcement Tuesday to UN General Assembly
  • He promised that China will stop adding to the global warming problem by 2060
  • President Xi said the pandemic had shown the need to preserve the environment
  • The goal will be challenging for the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed his country will aim to stop adding to the global warming problem by 2060.

Calling for a ‘green revolution’, the Chinese leader pledged that China will aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 during a Tuesday speech to the UN General Assembly.

He added that the coronavirus pandemic had shown the urgent need to preserve the environment. 

In this image from UNTV video, President Xi Jinping speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed his country will aim to stop adding to the global warming problem by 2060. In this file photo taken on November 28, 2019, smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant in Hejin in northern China’s Shanxi Province

The goal will be a challenge for China, which relies heavily for its electricity on coal, one of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

China released the equivalent of 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, into the atmosphere in 2018, according to the Global Carbon Project that tracks emissions worldwide.

That was almost twice as much as the United States and three times as much as the European Union.

Several other major emitters have set earlier deadlines, with the EU aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050.

President Xi’s announcement is a significant step for the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

‘Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of nature,’ he said.

Calling for a ‘green revolution’, the Chinese leader President Xi Jinping (pictured on screen) pledged that China will aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 during a Tuesday speech to the UN General Assembly

The goal will be a challenge for China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and relies heavily for its electricity on coal, one of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels. People wearing protective masks are seen walking on a street in Beijing on December 9, 2019

Xi said his country would raise its emissions reduction targets with ‘vigorous policies and measures’. In this photo taken on November 19, 2015, smoke belches from a fuelled power station near Datong, in China’s northern Shanxi province

Citing the Paris Agreement that he and former US President Barack Obama helped forge in 2015, Xi said his country would raise its emissions reduction targets with ‘vigorous policies and measures’.

‘We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060,’ he said.

The term ‘carbon neutrality’ means releasing no additional CO2 into the atmosphere, though technically it allows countries to keep emitting if they ensure that an equal amount is captured again in some form.

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’.

‘A big shift for curbing emissions and a significant step forward in international cooperation,’ UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said.

Frans Timmermans, who leads the EU executive’s efforts on climate change, welcomed Mr 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 United States has so far not set such a goal. President Donald Trump, who once described climate change as a hoax invented by China, has started the process of pulling the US out of the Paris accord.

If China fulfils Mr Xi’s goal, it could prevent 0.4 to 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.2 to 0.4 degrees Celsius) 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.

But much depends on how they do their emissions reduction and how soon they cut them, he said, adding he has to do a more thorough analysis.

‘That’s a lot,’ Mr Sterman said. ‘China’s by far the world’s big emitter. They’re emitting more than the EU and US together.’

‘It puts a lot more pressure on the United States,’ he added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (centre), US President Barack Obama (right) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) shake hands during a joint ratification of the Paris climate change agreement at the West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou onSeptember 3, 2016 

China released the equivalent of 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, into the atmosphere in 2018. The file photo shows people wearing face masks watch the national flag-raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square on International Workers’ Day on May 1

The United States has so far not set such a goal. President Donald Trump (pictured in file photo on April 10 speaking at the White House), who once described climate change as a hoax invented by China, has started the process of pulling the US out of the Paris accord

Perhaps even more important than the carbon neutrality pledge is the effort to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 instead of by 2030, Mr Sterman said.

Carbon dioxide’s more than 100-year lifetime in the air makes earlier emission cuts more effective than promises in the future, according to the expert.

‘Emissions that don’t happen between now and 2030 are going to reduce warming a lot more than the same emission reductions after 2060,’ he added.

Twenty-nine nations before China have pledged to achieve climate neutrality in different years, according to the Carbon Neutrality Coalition.

With China, the 30 countries that have some kind of carbon neutrality pledges account for about 43 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

The largest polluting countries not on the list are the United States, India, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil and Australia.

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