China approved the equivalent of two new coal plants per week by 2022, reports show

Hong Kong (CNN) China is advancing with coal, a new report finds, quickly approving and building new power plants despite its own promises to cut carbon as the world plunges deeper into the climate crisis.

Last year, the country approved the highest number of new coal plants since 2015, according to the report released Monday by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and the Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

“China remains the striking exception to the ongoing global decline in coal power development,” said Flora Champenois, a research analyst at GEM.

“The speed at which projects have progressed from permit to construction in 2022 has been extraordinary, with many projects coming up, obtaining permits, funding and breaking ground within months,” she added.

China’s emissions are more than double those of the United States, and while the country’s leaders have previously vowed to cut carbon emissions, its reliance on coal poses a major challenge.

Throughout 2022, China issued permits for 106 gigawatts of capacity at 82 sites, quadrupling the capacity approved in 2021 and equivalent to starting two major coal plants per week, the report said.

Last year, China experienced its worst heat wave and drought in six decades, which dealt a blow to hydropower-dependent provinces and prompted authorities to turn to coal instead.

To alleviate the power crisis, coal-fired power stations increased production, with daily consumption of thermal coal hitting an all-time high in August.

2021 wasn’t much better. Although Beijing had initially closed hundreds of coal mines and forced the remaining ones to curtail production, nationwide power shortages led the government to order mines to “produce as much coal as possible”.

That push doesn’t look likely to end any time soon, with the report’s authors warning that even China’s simultaneous expansion in renewables won’t be enough to offset the impact.

China added a record 125 gigawatts of solar and wind capacity last year, supplying 2% of the country’s electricity demand. And while that goal is even higher this year, “Even this increase will not be enough to meet all of the demand growth without increasing fossil fuel power generation,” the report said.

It added that to really reduce carbon emissions, China should start phasing out its “massive coal-fired power plant fleet” rather than continue to grow it. In addition to the plants’ environmental impact, their “politically influential owners … have an interest in protecting their assets,” the report said.

Carbon neutral target

China and the United States are the world’s two largest emitters of carbon, with China’s emissions tripling over the past three decades, a 2021 report found.

And while Chinese leader Xi Jinping had declared in 2020 that the country would be carbon neutral by 2060, activists and pundits have said the government is not taking action quickly or decisively enough.

For example, while China released a new plan in 2021 to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, it has not announced an updated emissions target. Later that year, the emissions reduction plan it submitted to the United Nations was met with disappointment from other world leaders who had hoped for significantly higher pledges and a faster decarbonization timeline.

Xi himself softened his tone towards zero carbon in the face of power outages, factory closures and compromised supply chains, saying early last year that “carbon peak and carbon neutrality cannot be achieved overnight”.

The country’s climate efforts are also hampered by geopolitics, with China last year suspending climate talks with the United States in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. to prevent a climate catastrophe.

Negotiations resumed months later at the UN’s COP27 summit in Egypt.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *