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China to Consider Carbon Neutrality by 2050 in Long-Term Climate Plan

China is considering a long-term climate plan that commits to carbon neutrality by 2050, just days after the European Union boosted its 2030 emission reduction target from 40 to 55%.

“China is willing to contribute more and we are now considering and studying a mid-century long-term vision for climate change, including such issues as the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions and carbon neutrality,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told media Tuesday, the day after a virtual summit that included leaders from China and the EU.

“The statement by the world’s biggest [carbon] polluter has been hailed as a milestone by climate advocates, who say that China raising its ambition is critical to the success of next year’s COP 26 UN climate summit,” Climate Home News reports. The announcement prompted Nigel Topping, the UK’s high-level champion for climate action, to muse on Twitter about whether China might soon join the UN climate secretariat’s Race to Zero campaign.

During last week’s summit, Climate Home adds, EU leaders said China could face “punitive carbon tariffs” if it fails to aim for carbon neutrality by 2060.

“China is a key global partner in reducing global greenhouse gas and tackling climate change. And we encourage China to be even more ambitious,” said European Council President Charles Michel. “The EU is setting the bar high—carbon neutrality by 2050.”

China’s original commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement called for the country’s emissions to peak by 2030. It also promised to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 60 to 65% from 2005 levels. Now, “Beijing is favouring clean energy over fossil fuels in its coronavirus recovery package, but provinces have reverted to building coal power plants to reboot economic growth,” Climate Home writes. Even sol, “China’s former chief climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, said in a speech on Wednesday that the country had met its 2020 carbon emission target three years of schedule and was ‘making active preparations’ for updating the 2030 target.”