© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.We researched China’s climate and sustainable development goal with relevant and susceptible instruments capable of inducing and mitigating carbon emissions. Amidst the contributor to the global carbon emissions, China is caught in between mitigating its carbon emission and aiming towards placing its national contribution of emissions to the acceptable levels of 1.5 °C and below 2 °C. Following the intricacies surrounding China’s sustainable development as it contains its economic and environmental performance, we adopt China’s data of 1980 and 2018 with different scientific approaches (nonlinear autoregressive distributed lag (NARDL), dynamic ordinary least square test, and bootstrap Granger causality) with different instruments (such as economic growth, financial development, renewable energy, and innovation policies) to research China’s sustainable development. For clear exposition and insight into our findings with policies attached, we draw a conclusion from the outcomes of the mentioned approaches. From NARDL and dynamic ordinary least squares (DOLS), we find that economic growth through economic activities is statistically significant in determining the trend (increase) of carbon emissions in China in both periods (short run and long run). However, other selected instruments (financial, renewable, and innovation policies) tend towards controlling and moderating the carbon emissions in China. Thus, China has good prospects to mitigate its carbon emissions if considered tailoring its policies towards favorable instruments. From bootstrap Granger causality, we find similar inferential results that support previous findings thereby confirming the positive implication of the selected instruments to China’s sustainable development. Hence, the nexus that is established among the selected instruments clearly show the importance of technological innovation and renewable energy in mitigating carbon emissions.