China announces aim to be carbon neutral by 2060

China has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 in an ambitious statement by a country that currently burns half the world’s coal.

In perhaps the most significant positive climate development since the 2015 Paris Agreement, President Xi Jinping announced at the UN’s General Assembly that China will strive to peak its carbon emissions sometime before 2030.

Though lacking in detail, President Xi’s speech acknowledged the need for both near-term and long-term changes. The latter is significant as this is the first time China has publicly articulated a post-2030 climate change goal while signalling to domestic stakeholders that its coal-dominant era is nearing an end.

At a political level, China’s new policy could be taken as a fresh dig at the US where the Trump administration has established a notoriously counterintuitive stance on climate change.

As well as President Trump numerously expressing scepticism of climate change as a fact, one of his first acts in office was to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris Agreement  to combat  global warming.

Overall, policies and legislation that support ESG factors have been challenged during the Trump administration’s tenure.

Most notably, the Department of Labor earlier this year tabled a controversial law that would see ESG investment strongly inhibited within US pension plans unless financial returns were prioritised. At the same time, the SEC recently came under fire from investor groups after adopting amendments to its shareholder proposal rules – seen as a major blow to corporate transparency and shareholder democracy.

Instances like this show that both domestic and foreign US policy is increasingly flying against progress being seen in other countries, and which is now further highlighted by China’s announcements.

As well as being unilateral and without qualification, China’s carbon neutrality target is profound as it would align with global projections as to what is needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Last Updated: 2 October 2020
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