Chinese President Xi Jinping says his country will aim to stop adding to the global warming problem by 2060.
Xi’s announcement during a speech on Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly is a significant step for the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Calling for a “green revolution,” Xi said the coronavirus pandemic had shown the need to preserve the environment.
“Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of nature,” he said.
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 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.
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.
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.