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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the UN General Assembly on September 28, 2015 in New York City. World leaders gathered for the 70th session of the annual meeting. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

RMI and ETC Salute China’s Carbon-Neutral Pledge

On September 22, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will scale up its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by adopting more vigorous policies and measures in order to achieve peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. These remarks were made at the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and Energy Transition Commission (ETC) salute this new climate goal and is encouraged by this news. Despite the global challenge presented by the COVID-19 crisis, China has shown confidence, courage, and firm leadership towards green recovery and sustainable development.

As a major greenhouse gas emitter, China’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions are of strategic importance to the global economy and society and ultimately to the fulfillment of the Paris Agreement goals. Over the past decade, China has made remarkable progress in addressing the challenge of climate change and particularly in low-carbon energy development.

This pledge to be carbon neutral before 2060 further demonstrates China’s determination to keep its commitments to the Paris Agreement and lead global climate action. 2020 is a key year to implement the Paris Agreement, and President Xi stated that it outlines the minimum steps to be taken to protect the Earth. China’s new climate goal is undoubtedly inspiring all countries and supporting the in-depth implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Last year RMI and ETC co-launched the report China 2050: A Fully Developed Rich Zero-Carbon Economy. In this report we identified that achieving net-zero carbon emissions while becoming a rich, developed economy is technically and economically feasible for China by 2050. We are pleased to see that our assessment is largely aligned with China’s new climate goal.

“Today’s announcement by President Xi Jinping that China intends to reach carbon neutrality before 2060 is big and important news—the closer to 2050 the better. His announcement that China will start down this road right away by adopting more vigorous policies is also welcome,” said Todd Stern, former US climate envoy and RMI board member.

“It is a great, encouraging news that China has put a clear commitment on the table to achieve net zero emissions before 2060, which is a technically and economically feasible goal. We should move forward with the implementation to electrify as much as possible of the economy which requires cleaning up the power sector, dramatically increasing efficiency, and further reducing the emissions in the harder-to-abate sectors,” said RMI CEO Jules Kortenhorst.

“President Xi’s commitment that China will peak emissions before 2030 and aim for carbon neutrality before 2060 is a huge step forward in the fight against harmful climate change and a welcome example of responsible global leadership,” said Adair Turner, Chair, Energy Transitions Commission. “Strong policies and large investments will be needed to achieve the mid-century objective, but our China 2050 report shows that it is clearly attainable. The priority now is to ensure that actions in the 2020s and in particular in the 14th Five-Year Plan, achieve rapid progress towards the twin goals.”

“We are very excited to see this ambitious goal committed to by China’s president. RMI is committed to work with key stakeholders to promote China’s energy transition and low-carbon development. The most urgent task in the next step is to identify a practical and feasible technical pathway to achieve the carbon neutrality goal and support China’s sustainable and high-quality development,” said Ting Li, regional managing director and chief representative, RMI Beijing Representative Office.

COVID-19 has made a massive impact on global economies, and all governments are seeking to design stimulus plans to promote economic recovery. As Chinese President Xi Jinping said: “COVID-19 reminds us that all countries should pursue innovative, coordinated, green and open development for all, seize the historic opportunities presented by the new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation, achieve a green recovery of the world economy in the post-COVID era, and thus create a powerful force driving sustainable development.”

We believe that in the post-COVID-19 era, by increasing public investment, implementing strong industrial policies, and putting zero-carbon development at the core, China will accelerate its pace of green recovery and set a successful example for the whole world.