China today sprung a major surprise after President Xi Jinping called for a “green revolution” and said his country would be carbon neutral by 2060.
Addressing the UN general assembly today, Xi said that China would hit peak carbon emissions in 2030 and then begin to phase out emitting technologies.
“China will scale up its intended Nationally Determined Contributions (to the Paris agreement) by adopting more vigorous policies and measures,” the premier said.
It is the first time that the world’s largest polluter has pledged to end its contribution to climate change.
The move was welcomed by the EU, which has been negotiating with China to lay out a target for carbon neutrality.
The move is widely seen as heaping pressure on US President Donald Trump, who has previously called the Paris climate accords a one-sided agreement and attacked China’s “rampant pollution”.
“Those who attack America’s exceptional environmental record while ignoring China’s rampant pollution are not interested in the environment. They only want to punish America. And I will not stand for it,” Trump said, a few minutes before Xi took to the virtual lectern.
In 2017, Trump pulled the US out of the Paris agreement and has subsequently rolled back hundreds of environmental protections.
He insisted that the US had reduced its climate emissions by more than any other country involved in the agreement.
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “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.
“The announcement today is also a major fillip for the European Union, 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 [Brazilian president] Jair Bolsonaro in the run-up to next year’s COP26 in Glasgow.”
Trump and Xi also exchanged blows over the coronavirus pandemic, with Trump calling for China to be held “accountable” for the crisis.
Xi hit back, saying China had “no intention to enter a Cold War with any country”.