China promotes coal in setback for efforts to cut emissions
BEIJING - The Associated Press
China is promoting coal-fired power as the ruling Communist Party tries to revive a sluggish economy, prompting warnings Beijing is setting back efforts to cut climate-changing carbon emissions from the biggest global source.
Official plans call for boosting coal production capacity by 300 million tons this year, according to news reports. That is equal to 7 percent of last year’s output of 4.1 billion tons, which was an increase of 5.7 percent over 2020.
“This mentality of ensuring energy security has become dominant, trumping carbon neutrality,” said Li Shuo, a senior global policy adviser for Greenpeace. “We are moving into a relatively unfavorable time period for climate action in China.”
Coal is important for “energy security,” Cabinet officials said at an April 20 meeting that approved plans to expand production capacity, according to Caixin, a business news magazine.
The ruling party also is building power plants to inject money into the economy and revive growth that sank to 4 percent over a year earlier in the final quarter of 2021, down from the full year’s 8.1 percent expansion.
The Communist Party has rejected binding emissions commitments, citing its economic development needs. Beijing has avoided joining governments that promised to phase out use of coal-fired power.
China accounts for 26.1 percent of global emissions, more than double the U.S. share of 12.8 percent, according to the World Resources Institute. Rhodium Group, a research firm, says China emits more than all developed economies combined.
China has abundant supplies of coal and produced more than 90 percent of the 4.4 billion tons it burned last year. More than half of its oil and gas is imported and leaders see that as a strategic risk.
China’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2060 appears to be on track, but using more coal “could jeopardize this, or at least slow it down and make it more costly,” Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigations Agency said in an email.
Beijing has spent tens of billions of dollars on building solar and wind farms to reduce reliance on imported oil and gas and clean up its smog-choked cities. China accounted for about half of global investment in wind and solar in 2020.
Still, coal is expected to supply 60 percent of its power in the near future.