China’s president, Xi Jinping, has announced plans for the nation to become carbon neutral by 2060, setting a bold goal for the world’s biggest climate polluter.
But it’s hard to reconcile Xi’s pledge, made before the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, with the nation’s recent actions. Most notably, China is in the midst of a coal building boom. As of late last year, the country had nearly 150 gigawatts’ worth of coal power plants in the development pipeline, roughly equal to the European Union’s total capacity, according to Global Energy Monitor, a nonprofit that tracks coal projects around the world.
The plants can easily operate for 60 years or more, so anything built today could continue pumping out greenhouse gases for decades beyond the 2060 deadline.
China appears to be trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, the nation is asserting itself as a climate leader at