China’s Surprise Commitment to Be Carbon Neutral by 2060

Yesterday at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to achieve “carbon neutrality before 2060” with the aim of hitting peak emissions before 2030.

China had choice words for the Trump administration and its complete lack of international leadership on climate change action. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a statement that by pulling out of international agreements like the Paris Climate Agreement, the US has failed in “its duty to restrict the amount of emissions, and refuses to take minimum action to protect the earth.”

Why This Matters: As the BBC explained, “with global climate negotiations stalled and this year’s conference of the parties (COP26) postponed until 2021, there had been little expectation of progress on the issue at the UN General Assembly.” This is why China’s announcement is a very welcome surprise, especially as it’s the world’s biggest emitter of carbon. This pledge breathes new air into the prospect of global climate cooperation after the US exited these efforts under the leadership of Donald Trump.

China’s Green Talk: In the past, China had been reluctant to commit to a date for achieving carbon neutrality, even as other nations have chosen to commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. As the New York Times reported, in his speech, President Xi called on countries to “achieve a green recovery of the world economy in the post-Covid era.” Adding that,

“Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of nature and go down the beaten path of extracting resources without investing in conservation, pursuing development at the expense of protection, and exploiting resources without restoration.”

The Big Picture: If Democratic presidential nominee Joe Bidens wins the election in November, the United States will have to work quickly to restore its reputation as a global arbiter of climate resolutions. If President Trump is reelected, then China has adeptly positioned itself as the global leader on climate action. As China is not only the world’s biggest contributor to climate change but is also the biggest financer of energy projects as well as the world’s biggest market, whatever path it sets forward will be crucial for the rest of the world to follow. At next year’s COP26, if the United States doesn’t come with a significant emissions reductions plan outlined, it will be a tremendous blow to its standing to it’s standing as the world’s most powerful nation.

But most significantly, as the Guardian explained,  “COP26 is viewed as one of the last chances to put the world on track to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement, to hold global heating to well below 2C, regarded as the limit of safety.

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