China says it will cut fossil fuel consumption to 20% by 2060, but makes no new emissions pledge

China says it will cut fossil fuel consumption to 20% by 2060, but makes no new emissions pledge

China plans to cut its reliance on fossil fuels to below 20% by 2060, according to a cabinet document published in state media Sunday.

While the document detailed new measures on how the world’s biggest polluter will decarbonize, the country is not updating its pledge to reduce emissions. The guidelines come less than a week before world leaders descend on Glasgow, Scotland, for crucial COP26 international climate talks. There, they will be expected to hash out a plan to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over this decade. Chinese President Xi Jinping hasn’t left China since the pandemic began and is unlikely to attend COP26 in person. The government has yet to announce details of its delegation to the summit.

The official document sheds more light on how Xi intends to make good on previous pledges to reach peak emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Carbon neutrality, or net zero emissions, is achieved when as much greenhouse gas is removed from the atmosphere as what’s emitted, so the net amount added is zero. Whether China can achieve its climate pledges has come under scrutiny in recent months. China was powering its coronavirus economic recovery by building dozens of new coal plants and accelerating construction projects reliant on fossil fuels, and it recently has ramped up coal production to ease an ongoing energy crisis.

Last week, the Chinese government ordered the country’s coal mines to “produce as much coal as possible” after weeks of power shortages across many provinces. Coal is also China’s main energy source and it’s widely used for heating, power generation and steel making. Last year, it made up nearly 60% of the country’s energy use. The new guidelines, published in state news agency Xinhua, said China will gradually phase out its fossil fuel consumption. By 2030, China said the proportion of the energy it uses coming from non-fossil fuel sources will reach 25%. Thirty years later, China aims to have 80% of its total energy use coming from non-fossil fuels, the document said, according to Xinhua.