climate change

The climate pledges of the world’s top emitters

Agence France-Presse

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GRAY. Smog in Harbin, China

AFP photo

By far the largest emitter responsible for roughly a quarter of all carbon pollution, China promises to reduce the intensity of its emissions by as much as 65% by 2030

Under the Paris Agreement on climate, nearly every country will have to drastically reduce their carbon emissions, and must submit renewed plans to do so by the end of 2020.

The first raft of “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) submitted by nations would put Earth on course to be 3C hotter than pre-industrial times, a far cry from the Paris temperature cap goal of keeping warming beneath 2C.

But this year has seen a host of large emitters – notably China and Japan – commit to achieving net-zero output this century.

According to Climate Action Tracker, the current emissions pledges would likely see 2.1C of warming by 2100.


With its first NDC in 2016, China – by far the largest emitter responsible for roughly a quarter of all carbon pollution – promised to reduce the intensity of its emissions by as much as 65% by 2030.

Under that scenario, it planned to reach peak emissions at the end of this decade. 

President Xi Jinping however shocked observers by announcing at the United Nations General Assembly in September his country now planned to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060.

Beijing has given few further details and is yet to submit its officially revised NDC.

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United States

The second-largest polluter, the US was one of the driving forces behind the Paris deal, with an initial commitment to cut emissions by a quarter by 2025, compared with 2005.

Despite President Donald Trump’s decision to renege on the US’ Paris commitment, President-elect Joe Biden will make rejoining the accord one of his first acts in office next month. 

Biden has set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, but it is unlikely any plan will be made official this year.

European Union

The EU committed in 2015 to reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

The Commission subsequently boosted the bloc’s ambition to aim for a 55% cut in emissions by 2030 and to achieve net-zero by 2050.

A summit of the bloc’s leaders this week will see member nations decide whether to adopt the target.

Although Britain is leaving the EU it has a 2050 net-zero target built into law. On Friday it announced it would seek to reduce emissions 68 percent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.


Like China, India plans to reduce its carbon intensity – by up to 35% this decade compared to 2005 levels. 

The world’s third-largest polluter is yet to submit a renewed NDC.


Russia formally rejoined the Paris deal in 2019. 

Moscow says it plans to achieve pollution levels in 2030 that are 70% of 1990 levels – in reality a drop of 30%.


Japan in 2016 committed to a 26% reduction in emissions by 2030. Its renewed NDC, issued in March, had the same figure.

However new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in October the country would be carbon neutral by 2050.

Carbon neutrality

More and more countries are committing to achieve net zero emissions – that is, their carbon pollution will be equally absorbed or offset – by 2050.

But according to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, which tracks each country’s NDCs, Britain and France are the only large emitters that have such plans anchored in law. 

By comparison, more than 110 countries have committed to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 – 11 of which are in the G20.


So far, fewer than 20 countries representing 5% of global emissions have so far submitted new NDCs in 2020, which is mandatory under the Paris Agreement.

A further 130 have however indicated that they plan to raise their ambition levels when they finally submit their plans, according to the World Resources Institute.

The United Nations Convention on Climate Change – which facilitates negotiations under the Paris deal – will present an evaluation of renewed NDCs in February. –

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