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expert reaction to statement that China is aiming for a CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060

The Chinese government have announced that they intend to reach carbon neutrality by the year 2060.


Prof Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change, University of Leeds, said:

“China emits more than any nation and has higher per person emissions than most nations, so the inclusion of a long term net-zero target is welcome.  This target goes beyond its current commitment and will eventually make a big difference to future warming levels.  However, its near term target of peaking emissions before 2030 is unaltered and it is this near term ambition that counts.  Stronger near-term action would help to raise international ambition and increase the overall chances of meeting Paris targets.  Why does it need to increase emissions from today?  I cannot see a compelling economic, environmental or social reason for doing so: the world will be better off if China doesn’t delay the inevitable.”


Dr Joeri Rogelj, Lecturer in Climate Change and the Environment, Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said:

“All in all, China’s announcement is a defining moment that resets the ambition of global climate action.  Analysts have understood for a while that China could easily peak its carbon emissions before 2030.  The unexpected and eye-opening part in this announcement is China’s long-term vision.  Its newly announced goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 would put its emissions on track for meeting the Paris Agreement.  With China’s economic power, the benefits in technological progress that come with such an endeavour will undoubtedly spill over to other parts of the world.”


Prof Cameron Hepburn, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, said:

“China may still be building coal fired power plants, but momentum is slowing and will soon grind to a halt as the pathetic economics of new coal is exposed.  In the meantime, China has become a wind, solar and battery superpower, with hydrogen now in its sights.  China hitting net zero before 2060 is not only possible but necessary.  Bear in mind much of the country’s productive output comes from exposed coastal areas now threatened by climate change, and that when the Himalayan glaciers melt, hundreds of millions of people risk running out of water.  The implications of this high-level target will now need to be turned into action in the upcoming 14th Five Year Plan.”


Neil Hirst, Senior Policy Fellow for Energy and Mitigation, Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said:

“China is the world’s largest emitter and the success of next year’s Glasgow climate summit will depend, significantly , on China giving a lead.  So it is very good news that President Xi Jinping has told the UN that China will scale up its ambition.  We have been waiting for this.  The commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060 is new and important.  This may be the earliest realistic date for China to aim for.  It is a tough challenge that implies early retirement or retrofitting of a lot of fairly modern fossil based plants.  It is in line with what the European Union has been pressing for in the recent EU-China Energy Dialogue.  There will be disappointment, however, that China’s existing target that emissions will peak before 2030 is unchanged.  Perhaps Chia is keeping something in reserve.  The new Five Year plan, now being completed will be critical and we must hope that Xi Jinping’s promise of “more vigorous policies and measures” will come through in that.”


Prof Xiaojun Wang, Head of Operations and Management Science, Innovation & Healthcare group, School of Management, University of Bristol, said:

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the current political and economic agenda, climate change remains as one of the most critical global challenge.  It is a welcoming news that China is aiming for carbon neutrality before 2060 and emissions peak before 2030.  It is good to see that China is willing to take more responsibility as this global challenge requires a collective effort from all countries.  However, the target could be more ambitious (for instance carbon neutrality before 2050) as the world may not have another 40 years to combat the climate change.  By saying that, we can expect more policy supports and government investments on clean physical infrastructure and green R&Ds in China, which is a positive news for a global green economic recovery to tackle the climate emergency.”


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