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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Major climate news arrived on Tuesday when Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would aim for "carbon neutrality" by 2060 and a CO2 emissions peak before 2030.

Why it matters: China is by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter. So its success or failure at reining in planet-warming gases affects everyone's future.

The big picture: Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate Research said the 2060 goalif it happens — keeps alive the prospect of holding global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

  • That's the most ambitious and moonshot goal of the Paris climate deal and it's fast slipping out of reach.
  • And here's Wood Mackenzie analyst Alex Whitworth in a note this morning: "The world’s largest carbon emitter finally shifted from its long-term position of having limited responsibility to reduce global emissions as a developing country, to assuming clearer leadership in tackling climate change."

Catch up fast: Xi made the pledge in video remarks Tuesday before the UN General Assembly.

  • He also said China will slightly toughen its nearer-term pledge under the Paris deal by aiming for the emissions peak before 2030. Their current pledge said they'll do this "around" 2030.

Reality check: The new commitment is very brief and super vague and there's no guarantee they will make good.

  • China watchers are now looking to see how the country will define "carbon neutrality" and what concrete steps it's planning to transform the targets into action.
  • "China’s upcoming 14th five-year plan has the potential to be the most important document in global energy market history," Gavin Thompson, another Woodmac analyst, said in their note.
  • And, here's just one of many challenges: China's fleet of coal-fired power plants is very young and they're still building new ones.

The intrigue: Xi's speech came after President Trump's remarks hit China for "rampant" pollution, touted his decision to abandon Paris, and noted the U.S. has reduced CO2 emissions.

  • "Xi Jinping’s climate pledge at the UNGA, minutes after Trump’s speech, is clearly a bold and well calculated move. It demonstrates Xi’s consistent interest in leveraging the climate agenda for geopolitical purposes," says Greenpeace's Li Shuo.
Expand chart
Reproduced from IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals





Go deeper

Scoop: Trump administration declassifies unconfirmed intel on Chinese bounties

Trump speaks during a press conference on China in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 29. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is declassifying as-yet uncorroborated intelligence, recently briefed to President Trump, that indicates China offered to pay non-state actors in Afghanistan to attack American soldiers, two senior administration officials tell Axios.

The big picture: The disclosure of this unconfirmed intelligence comes 21 days before the end of Trump's presidency, after he has vowed to ratchet up pressure on China, and months after news reports indicated that the Russians had secretly offered bounties for Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.

Colleyville Rabbi credits survival to active-shooter training

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the people taken hostage in a synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, said in an interview with CBS Monday that he initially took in the man because he thought he needed shelter.

The big picture: Cytron-Walker said he spoke to the hostage taker, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, for several minutes and made him tea before Akram took the rabbi and three other people hostage during Shabbat services for around 11 hours in Colleyville, Texas.