The world's top-polluting nation has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2060—"a tectonic shift in policy" that "could help significantly slow global warming," reports the New York Times. Chinese President Xi Jinping made the surprise announcement in addressing the UN General Assembly by video on Tuesday, adding that the country's carbon emissions would peak before 2030, which is the date China agreed to under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. This is a "game changer," Thom Woodroofe, a former climate diplomat and senior adviser at the Asia Society, tells the Guardian, noting "for the first time ever there is now a clear long-term trajectory for decarbonization in China." The European Union, the third largest emitter, strengthened its commitments last week, vowing to cut carbon emissions at least 55% (up from 40%) by 2030 relative to 1990 levels, per the BBC.
Xi did not say how China—still heavily dependent on coal—would achieve its goals apart from "more vigorous policies and measures," per the Guardian. Still, the pledge raises hope for the next UN climate summit, to be held in the UK in November 2021. The goal is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. It's thought that this can be achieved if developed countries are in effect carbon neutral by 2050, with developing countries following by 2060, per the Guardian. But that plan is complicated by the US decision to withdraw from the climate accord on Nov. 4. Speaking before Xi, President Trump said "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." China is responsible for 28% of the world's emissions, compared to about 15% for the US. (Read more China stories.)