Two sets of numbers set China apart on carbon emissions. One is President Xi Jinping’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 . The other is the proliferation of new coal-fired power plants, equivalent to one a week last year, along with proposals for 73 gigawatts of new coal-power projects. These figures amount to three and five times as much as the rest of the world combined respectively, casting a shadow over the carbon neutrality goal. China wants to be carbon neutral by 2060, but can its provinces manage it? This raises a debate that has been running for a decade. The numbers may suggest that Beijing is just paying lip service to goals to cut emissions under the Paris climate accords. But given the country’s size and abundant coal reserves as opposed to scarce energy alternatives, and its needs to sustain economic growth, it is unrealistic to expect it to focus just on reducing carbon emissions; or to phase out coal-fired plants at the pace of some European countries. Alternatives including renewables such as wind and solar power are not going to replace coal in the short term. China’s interest in cleaner energy technologies and investment is twofold – an urgent need to improve air quality through reducing emissions such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and an abiding need to rein in carbon emissions to meet reduction goals. To tap into the international market for “green” investment in carbon-reducing technologies, China is a world leader in those that burn coal at a high efficiency level that mitigates harmful emissions, with a view to storage of carbon for other purposes. China’s carbon neutral pledge ‘incompatible’ with oil, gas expansion Nonetheless, until recently, even “clean coal” energy generation was off limits under greenhouse gas rules for “green investment”. However, China, Europe, India and several others have teamed up to harmonise rules – the International Platform on Sustainable Finance – for trillions of dollars of “green” investment needed to prevent irreversible climate change, so that private capital can flow into it more freely. For China they make an exception of “clean coal” technologies with carbon emissions comparable to solar power after taking into account production emissions. From a more holistic point of view, this is why China and Europe are the biggest players in greenhouse gas rules. It remains to be seen how quickly China can reconcile carbon targets and emissions to achieve neutrality without inhibiting economic growth.