China’s ambitious target for carbon neutrality before 2060 is a game-changer and could help fulfil the promise of the Paris Agreement, said a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International official.

China aims to have CO2 Emissions Peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, President Xi Jinping announced at the 75th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly last week, a move expected to accelerate the world’s transition to green and low-carbon development.

“We need to have China with this strong announcement. It is good to have China talking with the EU (European Union) and Canada trying to move this agenda forward,” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF global climate and energy practice, said in a recent interview.

Pulgar-Vidal, former Peruvian environment minister, said China’s commitment sends a strong message and could fill the void that the United States is leaving by withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Agreement, the landmark deal to cut emissions of planet-warming gases.

“We are in a time in which unfortunately there is some kind of denialism and some kind of polarization in the political debate, so we need to have China as a strong leader to move this process forward. That’s why the message of the Chinese President is really important,” he said.

“China will continue the Paris Agreement. That is important because we have on the other hand the U.S. saying that they are planning to withdraw, and they have already asked to withdraw,” he noted. “So China’s message to fulfill the promise is a strong one.”

Pulgar-Vidal said China’s pledge could also boost the political momentum needed ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in city of Glasgow, Scotland next year.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries are expected to submit enhanced national climate plans called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the UN by the end of this year.

“The new NDCs that we are expecting that China can put on the table … In that NDCs what we want to see is a clear energy transition with a clear timetable to phase out coal,” Pulgar-Vidal said.

Other priorities include the use of land for a more sustainable agriculture, linking the NDCs to China’s five-year plan and the Belt & Road Initiative, as well as developing and exporting clean technologies, he said.

China is scheduled to host the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in the second quarter of 2021 in Kunming, capital city of southwest China’s Yunnan province.

WWF International, based in Gland, Switzerland, has as its mission to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth. The global conservation group works in nearly 100 countries in the areas of climate, food, freshwater, wildlife, forests and oceans.