China Pledges to be Carbon Neutral by 2060

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2019 file photo, smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant in Hejin in central China's Shanxi Province. Chinese President Xi Jinping says his country will aim to stop pumping additional carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, into the atmosphere by 2060. Xi's announcement during a speech Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, to the U.N. General Assembly is a significant step for the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and was immediately cheered by climate campaigners. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil, File)

China surprised the world in September with a pledge to take further action in combating climate change and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The first pledge was made to leaders of the European Union mid-September, then reiterated in President Xi’s speech to the UN General Assembly. Neither announcement provided any details as to how carbon neutrality was supposed to be achieved, however. In light of recent developments that saw China permitting more coal capacity to fuel post-pandemic economic recovery, the government is pointing to a slowing of China’s commitment to an energy transition.

However, more information may become available as the government gears up preparations for the 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP). Consultations, opinion seeking and research has been going on since the end of 2019, involving China’s eminent Academies, ministerial research bodies, independent think tanks, industry associations, and public interest bodies.

As to policies regarding climate change and achieving an “ecological civilization”, there appear to be three main areas:

  • Continued reform of the energy market away from coal to non-fossil fuel energy
  • High-tech innovation and high quality economic development
  • Gradual roll-out of measures starting from regional pilots

General consensus agrees that in order to achieve deep decarbonization, China must continue to reform its energy market and significantly reduce their consumption of coal. Key experts advising the government are calling for an increase of the share of renewable energy with an ultimate long-term goal of 70% to be viable, and a reduction of the share of coal to the global average of 20%. Energy consumption reduction is expected to come mainly from energy efficiency gains from industries such as construction or steel.

A new approach was offered by Wang Yi who recently suggested to replace the energy consumption cap of the 13th FYP with an absolute carbon emissions cap to effectively limit coal consumption without setting constraints for the development of zero-carbon energy sources.

Secondly, China plans to accelerate its development pattern from a rapid one to one of high quality based on higher efficiency and more sustainable drivers of economic growth. Already in the post-pandemic recovery plan, the roles of digitalization and AI have been highlighted. It is expected that the 14th FYP will focus on a digital transformation as an important source of economic growth, including e.g. smart technologies and the digitization and data management in production and energy distribution.

Pan Jiahua foresees a stepwise regional approach to reducing carbon emissions. While some provinces are leading in the zero-carbon development process, achieving net-zero carbon emissions in all of China will be harder. Net-zero carbon goals along with new technologies and processes are currently being tested for maturity in some provinces, then gradually rolled out across China. He suggests further goals regarding the demand-side and for climate resilience (e.g. enhanced carbon sequestration).

Activity Rating: *** Plans are promising but await consistent implementation

Since the end of 2019 the Chinese government has been working on gathering input from different private and public stakeholder groups as part of an opinion forming process within what the Communist Party of China (CPC) calls a “socialist democracy”. The draft of the 14th Five-Year Plan will be discussed at the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the CPC, scheduled for Oct 26-29, 2020. The final version is expected to be approved by legislators at the annual two sessions—the legislative and political advisory gatherings—in March next year. While the 14th FYP addresses broad development challenges, climate change mitigation and the achievement of an “ecological civilization” are expected to remain on the top of the agenda with (1) reduction of coal in the energy mix, (2) energy efficiency measures, and (3) the promotion of relevant innovative technologies at the forefront. According to Pan Jiahua, though, the 14th and 15th FYP will be crucial to achieving carbon neutrality over the next decade. China’s aspiration does not stop at its own doorstep by focusing on the construction of a domestic “ecological civilization”, but China aspires to lead the transformation and development of a global ecological civilization. However, with China continuing to sell, finance, and construct coal-fired power technology to the countries which are part of its Belt-Road-Initiative (BRI), it remains to be seen how true China will be to its claim to promoting a “green development” as part of BRI.

Take Action


Dear Premier Li,

I commend China on its bold commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060 and take leadership for a global climate transition. We see promising signals in the preparation work for the 14th Five-Year-Plan, which will be critical in laying the foundation for short- and long-term measures to reign in carbon emissions.

It will be essential that any plans to reduce coal consumption and accelerate an energy transition go hand in hand with a clear cap on absolute carbon emissions as well as a cap on carbon equivalent emissions stemming from methane and other greenhouse gases.

In addition, with Five-Year Plans by nature being directional and aspirational, care needs to be taken that any guidance is set out in clear, comprehensive and effective language that limits room for loophole interpretation and provides clear guidelines understood by all players – from government to industry to the individual. It should stipulate clear ideas and a commitment to incentivize the switch from coal power to cleaner or renewable energy, but also lay out the consequences for violators and those trying to circumvent the goals set in the plan.


For English:

Premier Li Keqiang / 李克强总理

Learn More Sources: (esp. Energy, Environment, Carbon Position Papers)

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard China Country Manager Annette Wiedenbach


9月份中国承诺将进一步强化应对气候变化,并在2060年前实现碳中和,此举惊动全世界。中国于9月中旬首次对欧盟领导人做出此承诺,之后习近平主席在联合国大会上的讲话中也重申了这一许诺。然而,这两份公告都没有阐述如何实现碳中和的任何细节,特别联想到最近一系列事态的发展,比如后疫情时代,中国为了更快实现经济复苏,允许提高煤炭产能,不禁让人怀疑中国对能源转型的承诺有所放缓 。

然而,政府可能会准备更多信息,以加快“十四五规划(FYP)”的筹备工作。 自2019年底以来,中国知名学术机构(详情请参考第32期报告),部级研究机构,独立智囊团,行业协会和公共利益机构等都一直在进行协商、征求意见和研究。


  • 能源市场从煤炭到非化石燃料能源的持续改革
  • 高科技创新和经济高质量发展
  • 分步推出区域整合试点

普遍的共识是,为了实现深度脱碳,中国必须继续大力改革其能源市场,并显著减少煤炭的消耗和核减产能, 尤其后者, 据相关报道称, 甚至去产能。 权威专家呼吁增加可再生能源的份额,最终长期目标是达到70%的可行性,并将煤炭的份额减少到全球平均水平的20%。减少的能耗主力军主要是建筑和钢铁等行业,其能效有待大力提高。


其次,中国计划以更高效率和更可持续经济增长动力为基础,将其发展模式从追求速度切换为提高质量。 在后疫情恢复计划中,数字化和人工智能的地位已得到强调。预计“十四五规划”将把重点放在数字化转型上,其中包括生产和能源分配中的智能技术、数字化和数据管理等,以此作为经济增长的引擎之一。

潘家华 (32)预见了逐步减少碳排放的区域发展策略。 虽然一些省份在零碳发展进程中处于领先地位,但短期在全中国实现净零碳排放无疑非常困难。 零碳目标、新技术和新工艺目前正在一些省份进行成熟度测试和验证,之后会逐步向全国推广。他提出了发展需求和气候恢复力的进一步目标,例如加强碳回收在各个领域的应用。





我们赞赏中国于2060年前实现碳中和并在全球气候变化方面发挥领导作用的承诺。 同时我们也在“十四五规划”准备工作中看到了积极的信号,这为碳排放的长短期控制措施奠定了重要基础。





此文由Climate Scorecard国家经理:Annette Wiedenbach攥写。翻译:Jolin


Sources /参考信息: (esp. Energy, Environment, Carbon Position Papers)

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