Beijing’s obsession with coal is choking off the green deal

Statistics show that the fossil fuel makes up nearly 58% of the country’s energy needs

China’s green credentials are being choked off by the rapid expansion of coal-fired power stations. Last year, the world’s second-largest economy rolled out 38.4 gigawatts of new coal-fuelled energy capacity.

Data released by the Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air revealed that the increase will undermine China’s goals to cut emissions.

“The runaway expansion of coal-fired power is driven by electricity companies’ and local governments’ interest in maximizing investment spending, more than a real need for new capacity,” Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said.

The facts:

  • China’s new coal power plant capacity in 2020 was more than three times the rest of the world’s output.
  • Including decommissions, China’s coal-fired fleet capacity jumped 29.8 gigawatts last year.
  • The rest of the world reported cuts of 17.2 gigawatts.
  • China now has 247 gigawatts of coal power plants under development.
  • That would supply enough energy for the whole of Germany, the Reuters news agency stated.

What was said: “Hopefully as the Chinese government determines its coal power capacity targets for the next five-year plan, it will severely restrict if not end [bringing new] coal plants [on line] and accelerate retirements,” Myllyvirta, of the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki, said as reported by Reuters.

China’s green deal: “President Xi Jinping announced last September that China [would] strengthen its 2030 climate target and aim to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060,” the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis of government climate action, stated. It then added: “China’s Covid-19 response contains elements of a green recovery, but as yet lacks the policies and direction to set [the country] on a low-carbon trajectory.”

China Factor comment: Coal is still king in China. Between 1990 to 2019, the country’s coal consumption nearly quadrupled from 527 metric tons of oil equivalent to 1,951 metric tons. The latest numbers showed that the fossil fuel made up nearly 58% of China’s energy needs, according to ChinaPower statistics. For Beijing, it appears economic growth and energy costs are more important than going green.