The country also said it would scale up its efforts under the global Paris Agreement on climate change, with an aim to have its carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030.
It is not yet clear what it means for other greenhouse gases.
“Analysts have understood for a while that China could easily peak its carbon emissions before 2030.
“The unexpected and eye-opening part in this announcement is China’s long-term vision. Its newly announced goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 would put its emissions on track for meeting the Paris Agreement.
“With China’s economic power, the benefits in technological progress that come with such an endeavour will undoubtedly spill over to other parts of the world,” he said.
Li Shuo, senior global policy adviser for Greenpeace South East Asia – who is based in Beijing, said: “Xi’s pledge will need to be backed up with more details and concrete implementation – By how much earlier can China peak its emissions? How to reconcile carbon neutrality with China’s on-going coal expansion?
“These are hard questions that demand a better response from Beijing. But if anything, Xi’s new commitment will certainly help turn a challenging year for the environment around and mark as the beginning of a reinvigorated round of global climate efforts.”
And Prof Cameron Hepburn, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, said: “China may still be building coal fired power plants, but momentum is slowing and will soon grind to a halt as the pathetic economics of new coal is exposed.
“In the meantime, China has become a wind, solar and battery superpower, with hydrogen now in its sights. China hitting net zero before 2060 is not only possible but necessary.”
by Rebecca Speare-Cole