China’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2060 covers various greenhouse gases – not just carbon dioxide, its climate envoy said on the weekend, signalling a potential shift in Beijing’s climate change policy. Addressing a financial forum in Beijing on Saturday, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy on climate change , said the carbon neutrality target included greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the economy. “This is different from the 2030 target,” Xie said, referring to the date by which China plans to reach peak carbon emissions. “[The 2060 goal] is not only carbon dioxide, but also non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons.” Chinese cities among 25 big producers of greenhouse gases, study finds In September, President Xi Jinping told a United Nations summit that China – the world’s largest producer of fossil fuel carbon emissions – would be carbon neutral by 2060. Since then, there has been little clarification from Beijing on whether the target includes other gases that absorb infrared radiation and trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. But Xie’s statement on the weekend is a clear sign that China’s leadership was leaning towards a broad rather than narrow definition of “carbon neutrality”, according to Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Finland-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. “What struck me was Xie saying explicitly that the carbon neutrality goal is a greenhouse gas neutrality goal, I haven’t seen him say this in this role as climate envoy,” he said, adding that Xie was a “long-time force on climate change and has been very influential in moving the Chinese leadership”. However, Li Shuo, a senior climate policy adviser with Greenpeace East Asia, said he thought it was more likely Xie’s comments represented just one of various views in the Chinese political system. “It’s a dynamic discussion in the Chinese bureaucratic system,” he said. Li said China needed to formalise the inclusion of other greenhouse gases in its 2060 carbon neutrality goal when it submitted two key documents required by the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. These documents are a list of specific targets to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impact of climate change, and an outline of its long-term climate change strategy. The two documents should be submitted before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, Li said. China’s greenhouse gas emissions soar 53 per cent in a decade, data shows Xie also said that a detailed policy framework for achieving its carbon neutrality goal was in the works and would cover 10 areas, from green finance, manufacturing, and transport to low-carbon technology. Xie’s speech came ahead of tense talks between US and Chinese officials in Tianjin , during which Beijing brushed off suggestions that the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouses work together on climate change. In the meeting on Monday with US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman, Chinese foreign vice-minister Xie Feng dismissed Washington’s mixed-signal approach to seek cooperation on limited areas while maintaining pressure on China on most fronts. “The US side has sought China’s cooperation and support on climate change, the Iran nuclear issue and the North Korea nuclear issue,” Xie Feng said. “We have stressed that the foundation and prerequisite for cooperation is mutual trust and mutual benefits, and a favourable atmosphere in bilateral relations is an essential requirement. “The US … cannot expect cooperation on one hand and to hurt China’s interests on the other. This won’t work.” China’s latest Yangtze mega dam powers up all units as country banks on hydropower to curb greenhouse gases In 2014, Xie Zhenhua – then vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission – and John Kerry – then US secretary of state – rallied other countries to sign the Paris Agreement. The two men met again as climate envoys in Shanghai in April to discuss non-carbon greenhouse gases, with both countries agreeing to accept an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer. The 2016 Kigali Amendment to the 1985 Montreal Protocol requires signatories to cut hydrofluorocarbons by more than 80 per cent over the next 30 years. The joint statement in April was the first time China said it would ratify the amendment, fulfilling its promise in June. Curbs on other greenhouse gases could also have other benefits besides mitigating climate change. Methane is linked to crop losses and to around 1 million premature deaths per year globally, according to a 2019 paper by the Washington-based World Resources Institute.