The Chinese government has two headline climate goals: to peak carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. The two goals are often referred to as the “30-60” goals.
The first of these goals—to peak CO2 emissions before 2030—has its origins in an announcement by President Xi Jinping at a November 2014 summit with US President Barack Obama. At that summit, President Xi said that “China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030, making best efforts to peak early.” 1 The pledge made headlines around the world. President Xi strengthened the pledge slightly in a September 2020 speech to the UN General Assembly, saying that China would “aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030.” 2 There is now considerable literature on China’s prospects for meeting the 2030 peaking goal, with many analysts projecting that China is likely to peak CO2 emissions several years before 2030. 3, 4
The second of these goals—to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060—was first announced by President Xi in his September 2020 speech to the UN General Assembly.5 This pledge also made headlines around the world. In 2021, Minister Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Climate Envoy, explained that the 2060 goal:
“includes emission of greenhouse gases across the economy, which is different from the 2030 target. Not only carbon dioxide, but also non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons.” 6
President Xi’s 2060 goal implies a dramatic transformation in China’s energy systems, which are overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels. There is growing literature on pathways for China to achieve the 2060 carbon neutrality goal. 7
In speeches during 2021 and 2022, China’s leaders emphasized that the carbon peaking and carbon neutrality goals should be pursued in harmony with other important goals. In a June 2022 speech, for example, Vice Premier Han Zheng said:
“We will promote carbon neutrality in a steady and orderly manner, reducing carbon emissions while ensuring energy security, industrial chain supply chain security, food security and normal life for the masses.” 8
This echoed a January 2022 speech by President Xi Jinping to China’s Politburo that used similar language. Following a July 2021 meeting chaired by President Xi, China’s Politburo issued instructions to “carry out the carbon-peaking and carbon neutrality work in a coordinated and orderly manner” and “rectify campaign-style carbon reduction.” The latter phrase has been interpreted to mean local officials should avoid sudden, overzealous steps in meeting carbon reduction goals. 9
In addition to the carbon peaking and carbon neutrality goals, the Chinese government has highlighted four other principal climate change goals, all to be achieved by 2030:
- to lower CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by over 65% from the 2005 level;
- to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25%;
- to increase the forest stock volume by 6 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level; and
- to bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1200 gigawatts.
These goals were first announced by President Xi at the Climate Ambition Summit in December 2020 and are set forth in the Nationally Determined Contribution China submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in October 2021. 10
Each of these goals is a stronger version of previous goals announced by the Chinese government.
- The Chinese government’s first goal with respect to CO2 emissions per unit of GDP (often called “carbon intensity”) was announced by Premier Wen Jiabao just before the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009. The goal was to reduce CO2 emissions by 40%–45% from the 2005 level by 2020. In 2015, in its first Nationally Determined Contribution, the Chinese government pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 60%–65% from the 2005 level by 2030. In December 2020, President Xi pledged that, by 2030, China would reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by over 65% from the 2005 level by 2030. 11
- In November 2014, President Xi pledged that China would increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy to around 20% by 2030. In December 2020, President Xi strengthened this pledge, announcing that China would increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy to around 25% by 2030. 12
- In November 2009, Premier Wen pledged that China would increase its forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters from 2005 levels by 2020. In 2015, in its first Nationally Determined Contribution, the Chinese government pledged to increase the forest stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic meters from 2005 levels by 2030. (In July 2019, Premier Li Keqiang announced that China had met this goal—11 years ahead of schedule.) In December 2020, President Xi pledged that China would increase its forest stock volume by 6 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level. 13
- The Chinese government has announced wind and solar power deployment goals in each of its recent Five-Year Plans. The 13th Five-Year Plan, for example, included goals of 210 GW of grid-connected wind power and 153 GW of solar capacity in China by 2020. 14 President Xi’s remarks at the December 2020 Climate Ambition Summit was the first time the Chinese government had announced a 2030 goal for wind and solar power deployment.
The State Council Information Office, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and National Bureau of Statistics all report on progress toward meeting these goals. 15 The following table shows recent data on that progress.
In October 2021, President Xi Jinping announced that China would adopt a “1+N” policy framework for climate change. The “1” refers to a long-term approach to achieving carbon neutrality and the “N” refers to specific plans to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. The Chinese government’s “1+N” policy documents reiterate the headline goals discussed above and contain dozens of additional climate-related goals. Examples of such additional goals include:
- No less than 50% of electricity transmitted via newly-constructed power lines will be generated from renewable resources. 20
- Approximately 40 gigawatts of hydro power capacity will be installed during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–2025) and an additional 40 gigawatts of hydro power capacity will be installed during the 15th Five-Year Plan (2026–2030). 21
- By 2030, no less than 70% of travel in cities with permanent populations of one million or more will be conducted through environmentally friendly means.” 22
The “1+N” policies are set forth in the State Council’s Working Guidance for Carbon Dioxide Peaking and Carbon Neutrality, NDRC’s Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking Before 2030, implementation plans for carbon peaking from a range of sectors and other documents. 23
All of the Chinese government’s climate-related goals are implemented through a policy infrastructure that includes regulations, guidance documents and financial support. One common tool is to allocate targets to provinces.
Many Chinese provinces and localities have committed to climate goals as well. At least 23 provinces and cities have committed to peak CO2 emissions before 2030. 24