Net zero targets
We evaluate the net zero target as: Target information incomplete.
China’s President Xi Jinping first announced China’s commitment to reach “carbon neutrality before 2060” in a declaration at the UN General Assembly in September 2020. The target is not yet enshrined in law, nor in a policy document. If China’s net-zero target were to cover all GHG emissions, its long-term strategy could be within range of mid-century Paris Agreement compatible emissions levels, although compatibility also depends on the shape of the pathway (Yvonne Deng et al., 2020).
We assume that China’s net zero target covers all GHGs, as stated by Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy. However, it is not yet clear whether this is the government-wide interpretation (Baptista, 2021). As most of the target information remains unclear and incomplete as of now, the CAT is currently unable to comprehensively assess China’s target.
Ten key elements
- Target year – China aims to reach carbon neutrality before 2060
- Emissions coverage – China has committed to reaching “carbon neutrality” before 2060, which normally implies all sources and sinks of carbon dioxide emissions are covered, but not other greenhouse gases. While Xie Zhenhua, China’s climate envoy, suggests the target covers non-CO2 GHGs, it is not yet clear whether this is the government-wide interpretation (Baptista, 2021).
- International aviation and shipping – China provides no information on whether it intends to cover international aviation and shipping.
- Reductions or removals outside of own territory – China provides no information on its intention to use international offset credits to meet its net zero target.
- Legal status – President Xi Jinping announced the net zero target on September 22, 2020, at the UN General Assembly, which was reiterated in China’s 14th FYP (2021-2025) (Murphy, 2021; Xinhua News Agency, 2021). China has not submitted an LTS although it has recommitted [English, Chinese] its intention to during a US-China bilateral climate summit in 2021 (Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China, 2021; US DOS, 2021).
- Separate reduction & removal targets – China provides no information on whether it intends to communicate separate emission reduction and removal targets.
- Review process – China provides no information on whether it intends to establish a review cycle for its net zero and intermediate targets.
- Carbon dioxide removal – China provides no information whether it intends to communicate transparent assumptions on carbon dioxide removals.
- Comprehensive planning – In its announcement at the UNFCCC in September 2020, President Xi Jinping pledged to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, which was later reiterated in China’s 14th FYP (2021-2025) (Murphy, 2021; Xinhua News Agency, 2021). No other intermediate targets were given, nor were measures outlined. The government will periodically release updated plans in a five-year cycle. While several scenario pathways towards 2060 have been developed, the government has not officially adopted any.
- Clarity on fairness of target – China provides no information on its intention to explain the target’s fairness, nor is the gap between a realistic net zero target and a fair target explained.
The Climate Action Tracker has defined the following good practice for all ten key elements of net zero targets. Countries can refer to this good practice to design or enhance its net-zero targets.