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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.

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is required to begin the impeachment trial at 1 p.m. the day after the article is transmitted.