Climate Change: China to become carbon neutral by 2060

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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China has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 and hit its peak in greenhouse gas emissions before 2030 at the UN general assembly.

During his virtual speech at the UN General Assembly held in New York, Xi Jinping – the President of China, outlined the measures. The announcement is regarded as a crucial step towards fighting climate change. China is the largest carbon dioxide source in the world and accounts for approximately 28% of global emissions.

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In 2018 and 2019, China’s emissions continued to increase even as a vast number of nations started to step away from fossil fuels. As the COVID-19 crisis struck the world this year, the Asian country’s emissions dropped by 25 percent, but it bounced back again in June as coal-fired factories, cement plants and other heavy industries returned to work.

China has so far stated that its emissions would peak by 2030, but has resisted from committing itself to a long-term target.

“China will scale up its intended nationally determined contributions [under the Paris climate agreement] by adopting more vigorous policies and measures,” the Chinese president said.

He also called the world to take measures to achieve a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Observers suggest that the Chinese leader has perfectly timed the announcement as the US remains reluctant to deal with the climate crisis. Donald Trump had criticized China, accusing it of playing a key role in spreading the COVID-19 virus as well in the carbon emissions of the world at the assembly before Mr Xi spoke.

In 2014, Mr Xi and then US President Barack Obama had arrived at a surprise climate change deal, which has been a core component of the Paris Agreement which was signed in December 2015 under which China had pledged to cut the carbon intensity of its economy by 60-65% against a 2005 baseline.

Most observers agreed that the announcement from China was a significant step, not least because of the country’s role in financing fossil fuel development around the world.

“China isn’t just the world’s biggest emitter but the biggest energy financier and biggest market, so its decisions play a major role in shaping how the rest of the world progresses with its transition away from the fossil fuels that cause climate change,” said Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a UK-based think tank.

By joining the UK and the European Union (EU) in setting a target to achieve carbon neutrality, China has given a timely boost to the critical COP26 summit, the global climate change summit to be held in 2021. The summit was supposed to be held next year but was being delayed by a year as a result of the pandemic. But experts say this later date could enable stronger global commitments on climate action.

As part of the framework for a broader European Green Deal program to achieve “Climate neutrality” by the middle of the century, the European Union had confirmed its plans for a 55% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 last week.