China announced new measures designed to fight climate change, during a virtual UN summit in which all countries were asked to declare a “climate emergency” by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. China, which is currently the highest carbon emitting country, announced that it plans to cut its emissions per unit of GDP by over 65 per cent from the 2005 level by 2030, while ramping its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kW.

In 2015, it set the target of lowering carbon intensity by 60-65 per cent by 2030. Speaking via video, President Xi Xinping said: “All countries need to maximise actions in light of their respective national circumstances and capabilities. China always honours its commitments.” He added that his country also plans to increase its forest coverage by six billion cubic metres from 2005 levels.

As of 2019, China had combined accumulative installed solar and wind capacity of around 414 GW. China’s state planner is aiming to have 240 GW of wind and the same amount of solar capacity installed by the end of 2020.

During the summit, the EU urged China to halt all new coal projects and to stop financing overseas coal plants, although Xinping made no mention of reducing his country’s reliance on the fossil fuel over the weekend. The country currently has a large number of coal-power plant construction projects in the pipeline representing the equivalent of the volume of the entire coal fleet of Africa and Middle East.

REGlobal’s Views: This is a second surprise announcement from China. The country made a surprise announcement in September 2020 that it plans to reach net-zero carbon by 2060 and estimates a peak in emissions between 2025-2030. While not as strong a commitment as the 2050 date pledged by the EU or the UK, China had previously never stated that it planned to become carbon neutral. This will be a big achievement, if accomplished. Given the country’s track record in meeting targets, it may not be a surprise if it achieves it before the set timeline.