While speaking to the United Nations General Assembly via teleconference, China's President Xi Jinping announced that the country plans to hit peak emissions before 2030 and for carbon neutrality by 2060.
This is considered a massive success in the battle against the climate crisis, as China is one of the biggest polluter nations. It's the biggest source of carbon dioxide, responsible for around 28% of global emissions.
Talks around climate change in the UN had stalled and the conference was postponed until 2021, but China's announcement came as a bold statement. He also called for the world to achieve a green recovery for the world economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the first time China has made concrete goals in emission reduction. Speaking via translator, President Xi Jinping said, "We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060."
China remains mostly dependent on fossil fuels. The country had seen a 25% drop in emissions due to the Coronavirus lockdown but by June they had bounced back again as coal-fired plants, cement and other heavy industries went back to work.
"Xi Jinping's climate pledge at the UN, minutes after President Donald Trump's speech, is clearly a bold and well calculated move," said Li Shuo, an expert on Chinese climate policy from Greenpeace Asia.
"It demonstrates Xi's consistent interest in leveraging the climate agenda for geopolitical purposes."
Li Shuo believes that the Chinese leader is taking advantage of US reluctance to address the climate question.
"By playing the climate card a little differently, Xi has not only injected much needed momentum to global climate politics, but presented an intriguing geopolitical question in front of the world: on a global common issue, China has moved ahead regardless of the US. Will Washington follow?"
"Today's announcement by President Xi Jinping that China intends to reach carbon neutrality before 2060 is big and important news - the closer to 2050 the better," said former US climate envoy Todd Stern.
"His announcement that China will start down this road right away by adopting more vigorous policies is also welcome. Simply peaking emissions 'before 2030' won't be enough to put China on the rapid path needed for carbon neutrality, but overall this is a very encouraging step."
"China isn't just the world's biggest emitter but the biggest energy financier and biggest market, so its decisions play a major role in shaping how the rest of the world progresses with its transition away from the fossil fuels that cause climate change," said Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a UK-based think tank.
"The announcement today is also a major fillip for the European Union, whose leaders recently urged President Xi to take exactly this step as part of a joint push on lowering emissions, showing that international moves to curb climate change remain alive despite the best efforts of Donald Trump and [Brazil's president] Jair Bolsonaro in the run-up to next year's COP26 in Glasgow."