China said it intends to become carbon neutral by 2060, a tightening of its target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.


President Xi Jinping also reiterated his goal for emissions to peak before 2030 and urged all nations to work toward a greener economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.


“Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of Nature and go down the beaten path of extracting resources without investing in conservation, pursuing development at the expense of protection, and exploiting resources without restoration,” Xi said in a speech by video link to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

The remark is a signal that China, the world’s most populous nation and biggest polluter, is willing to take on more responsibility for tackling climate change. It marks a contrast with U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, which called for limits on fossil-fuel use everywhere.


Xi didn’t give any further details of what carbon neutrality or set out further information about how China’s pledges under the Paris accord will evolve.


“Although details are scarce at the moment, this looks like a very significant step forward,” said Richard Black, Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. “China isn’t just the world’s biggest emitter but the biggest energy financier and biggest market.”


European officials were expected to press China to toughen its climate goals at a high-level meeting last week, according to two officials who spoke to reporters last week on the condition of anonymity. The European Union wanted Chinese greenhouse-gas emissions to peak by 2025 instead of the country’s target date of 2030.


The bloc also wanted China to stop building coal-fired power plants at home and financing them abroad, the people said.


“Six years ago, the secret U.S.-China climate deal caught the world by a nice surprise,” said Li Shuo, senior climate policy officer at Greenpeace East Asia. “Xi Jinping’s climate pledge is a bold diplomatic move that demonstrates clear political will and the maximum desire to contrast China’s climate stance with the U.S.”


Xi called on “all countries to pursue innovative, coordinated, green and open development for all, seize the historic opportunities presented by the new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation, achieve a green recovery of the world economy in the post-Covid era and thus create a powerful force driving sustainable development.”