Last Tuesday, while addressing the United Nations General Assembly, President Xi Jingping shocked global observers with a bold announcement: China has promised to strengthen its commitments under the Paris Climate Accords, declaring that it will achieve peak emissions before 2030 and full carbon neutrality by 2060 (Reuters). China is currently the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, responsible for approximately 28% of global emissions (BBC). Scientists predict that, if it follows through on this commitment, China could curb global warming by as much as 0.3°C (Reuters). This announcement comes just on the heels of the European Union’s recent pledge to strengthen its own Paris Climate commitments, promising to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 (Guardian).

Many are calling Xi’s announcement a direct challenge to the United States. Over the last few years, the United States has been notably absent from the global climate space and is expected to formally exit the Paris Accords on November 4 (Guardian). During his remarks before the General Assembly last Tuesday, President Donald Trump called the climate agreement a “one-sided deal,” and specifically called out China for its rapidly increasing fossil fuel emissions (Politico). Tensions between the two countries have been on the rise since Trump took office in 2016. Though China’s new commitment remains good news for climate advocates, Todd Stern, a former U.S. climate envoy, warns that avoiding the climate crisis will require “both competition and collaboration” between the two world powers (Reuters).