Xi promises carbon-neutral China by 2060 in UN speech

Foreign Affairs

At the UN General Assembly, Donald Trump bashed the UN and Xi Jinping praised it. Xi also made a significant environmental commitment: that the country would “achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.”

xi jinping un general assembly video address 2020
Xi Jinping addresses the UN General Assembly by video. United Nations/Handout via REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 addressed the UN General Assembly today — virtually, of course.

Trump repeated two familiar talking points about China in his address: that China should be held accountable for having “unleashed this plague onto the world”; and that China, which “virtually controlled” the World Health Organization, misled about the virus in its early stages. Then he added a new one, about environmental problems that no one should believe Trump actually cares about:

In addition, every year China dumps millions and millions of tonnes of plastic and trash into the oceans, overfishes other countries’ waters, destroys vast swaths of coral reef, and emits more toxic mercury into the atmosphere than any country anywhere in the world. China’s carbon emissions are nearly twice what the US has, and it’s rising fast.

Trump made no commitment to rejoin the Paris Agreement, or any environmental commitment of any kind in his speech; this was simply grandstanding.

Xi Jinping, meanwhile, made a new commitment for China on the environment: that the country would “achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.”

  • This was a “surprise move” by China, the Financial Times writes, as the “new target will require a radical reshaping of the world’s second-largest economy, and could push coal demand in China — which accounts for half the world’s consumption of the fuel — to close to zero.”
  • The U.S. now has no economic peers that share its lack of a carbon-neutral target: Before China, other major economies like the EU and the U.K. targeted zero emissions by 2050.
  • However: “Xi’s pledge will need to be backed up with more details and concrete implementation. How much earlier can China peak its emissions? How can we reconcile carbon neutrality with China’s ongoing coal expansion?” Li Shuo, an energy policy officer at Greenpeace in Beijing, told the FT.
  • See also on SupChina: China to act on air pollution. Climate change, not so much.

Xi also, in contrast to Trump, spoke highly of multilateralism, and made several pledges to support global initiatives:

— China will provide another $50 million to the UN COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan.

— China will provide $50 million to the China-FAO South-South Cooperation Trust Fund (Phase III).

— China will extend the Peace and Development Trust Fund between the UN and China by five years after it expires in 2025.

— China will set up a UN Global Geospatial Knowledge and Innovation Center and an International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals to facilitate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

More coverage of the Trump and Xi addresses and the UN General Assembly: