China sets formal climate change goals

China will look to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, invest in carbon-free energy and reduce its carbon intensity to help curb global warming, officials announced Tuesday.

The commitment is China’s contribution to an international climate change strategy due to be hammered out at a United Nations conference this December. The plan closely matches the proposal it made during negotiations with the United States last year. 

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Chinese Premier Li Keying said the country would also work to peak its carbon dioxide emissions before the 2030 date. 

“China’s carbon dioxide emission will peak by around 2030 and China will work hard to achieve the target at an even earlier date,” he said in France on Tuesday, the Guardian reports.

China, the world’s largest carbon emitter and consumer of energy, will aim to get at least 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. It will also reduce its carbon intensity — the amount of carbon dioxide it emits per unit of gross domestic product — by 60 to 65 percent from 2005 levels. 

The plan builds on the one announced in November, when American officials said they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

White House energy and climate adviser Brian Deese said the U.S. “welcomes” China’s emissions plan. 

“Countries accounting for nearly 70 percent of current global energy carbon-dioxide emissions have already announced and are taking action on post-2020 climate policies,” he said in a statement. “The United States encourages all major economies to submit their [emissions goals] as soon as possible to lay the groundwork for a successful outcome at the twenty-first session of the Conference of Parties in Paris at the end of this year.”

But Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Overnight Defense: Stimulus bill has .5B for Pentagon | Money would be blocked from border wall | Esper orders 60-day freeze for overseas troop movements Senate panel switches to 'paper hearings' amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, questioned whether China would be able to meet the goals it set. 

“China’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions is unattainable and unrealistic,” he said in a statement. “China's commitment will allow the country to continue increasing its emissions for the next 15 years. As I warned before, this deal will allow China to continue to lure manufacturing and agriculture jobs away from the United States with the promise of affordable energy.”

American environmental groups cheered China's announcement on Tuesday. 

“China’s climate commitment sets it on a clear path to transition away from heavily polluting coal to cleaner and sustainable energy sources like wind and solar,” National Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh said. “This transition to clean energy will also lead to cleaner air and improved health for its citizens. Today’s news sets the stage for the development of a strong international climate treaty later this year.”

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said the announcement makes it “impossible to ignore the momentum building toward real climate action any longer.”

"Today’s announcement represents the completion of an unprecedented commitment between the world’s two largest economies, and two biggest polluters, to work together to tackle the climate crisis,” he said. This is a massive step toward reaching a deal in Paris between all of the world’s major emitters, and an indicator that the transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy is speeding up worldwide.”

—This story was updated a 3:03 p.m.