China set to go climate neutral by 2060

China, the world’s biggest source of CO2, will aim to hit peak emissions by 2030 and be climate neutral by 2060. This means that it will reduce all CO2 emissions to minimum and offset the remainder.

As the world’s largest energy financier and energy market, the announcement sends a strong message to the rest of the world that decarbonisation is possible. However, green groups are concerned that 2030 will be too late to limit global warming to 1.5C.

President of China, Xi Jinping made the announcement via video link to the UN General Assembly in New York where he urged all countries to follow a green post-Covid recovery.

Although China is the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy, up until 2019 it was still investing in its domestic coal industry. And in June its coal-fired plants, cement and other carbon-intensive industries went back to business as usual. Nonetheless, although it is unclear how China will reach “climate neutrality”, this a huge moment for a country responsible for around 28% of global emissions. To become climate neutral by 2060 remains a significant challenge.

Li Shuo, an expert on Chinese climate policy from Greenpeace Asia said: “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?”

Todd Stern, former US climate envoy, says, “Today’s announcement by President Xi Jinping that China intends to reach carbon neutrality before 2060 is big and important news – the closer to 2050 the better. His announcement that China will start down this road right away by adopting more vigorous policies is also welcome.”

He went on to say, “simply peaking emissions ‘before 2030’ won’t be enough to put China on the rapid path needed for carbon neutrality, but overall this is a very encouraging step.”

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a UK-based think tank, says, “The announcement today is a major fillip for the EU, whose leaders recently urged President Xi to take exactly this step as part of a joint push on lowering emissions, showing that international moves to curb climate change remain alive despite the best efforts of Donald Trump and [Brazil’s president] Jair Bolsonaro in the run-up to next year’s COP26 in Glasgow.”

Kelly Levin, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute, an environmental research organisation says the announcement might not be enough. “To meet 1.5C, society would have to peak promptly, and then rapidly reduce carbon, or decarbonise, emissions — meaning a grand 50% decrease in total carbon emissions by 2030.”

Take action

If we are to succeed at averting runaway climate change then all countries must be pursuing post-Covid green recoveries for their economies. We cannot wait for China to be climate neutral by 2060. It is our duty as citizens to hold them to account if they are not and only put in power those who prioritise this.

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