BEIJING ( Associated Press) – China is promoting coal-fired electricity as the ruling Communist Party tries to revive a sluggish economy, warning Beijing is looking to cut climate-changing carbon emissions from the biggest global source. withdrawing efforts.
According to news reports, official plans call for increasing coal production capacity to 300 million tonnes this year. This equates to 7% of last year’s 4.1 billion tonnes, an increase of 5.7% compared to 2020.
China is one of the biggest investors in wind and solar, but jittery leaders called for more coal-fired power last year after blackouts and factory closures caused a decline and lack of economic growth. Russia’s attack on Ukraine raised concerns that foreign oil and coal supplies could be disrupted.
“This mindset of ensuring energy security has overtaken carbon neutrality,” said Li Shuo, a senior global policy advisor at Greenpeace. “We are moving into a relatively unfavorable time period for climate action in China.”
Officials face political pressure to ensure stability as President Xi Jinping tries to break with tradition and prepares to serve himself a third five-year term as leader of the ruling party in the autumn.
Coal is critical to “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 is also building power plants to pump money into the economy and revive growth that fell to 4% in the last quarter of 2021 from a year ago, down from a full-year expansion of 8.1% .
Governments have pledged to try to limit warming of the atmosphere to 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial time levels. Leaders say what they really want is a 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) limit.
Scientists say that even if the world achieves the 2-degree target in the 2015 Paris climate accord and the 2021 Glasgow follow-up, it could lead to higher seas, stronger storms, extinctions of plants and animals, and death tolls from the heat. The number of people will increase. Smog and infectious diseases.
China is the top producer and consumer of coal. Global trends depend on what Beijing does.
The Communist Party has rejected binding emissions commitments, citing its economic development needs. Beijing has refrained from joining governments that promised to phase out the use of coal-fired electricity.
In a 2020 speech at the United Nations, Xi said carbon emissions would peak by 2030, but he did not announce a target for the amount. Xi said China’s goal is to remove as much from the atmosphere by 2060 as carbon neutrality, or planting trees and other strategies, is emitted by industry and households.
According to the World Resources Institute, China accounts for 26.1% of global emissions, which is more than double the US share of 12.8%. A research firm Rhodium Group says that China emits the most of all developed economies combined.
According to the WRI, per capita, China’s 1.4 billion people emit the equivalent of 8.4 tons of carbon dioxide annually. This is less than half the US average of 17.7 tonnes but more than the European Union’s of 7.5 tonnes.
China has an abundant supply of coal and produced more than 90% of the 4.4 billion tons it burned last year. More than half of this oil and gas is imported and leaders see this as a strategic risk.
China’s carbon neutrality target by 2060 is on track, but using more coal “could endanger it, or at least slow it down and make it more vulnerable,” Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigation Agency said in an email. Could make it expensive.”
Perry said the boost to coal would make emissions “far more than needed” by the 2030 peak year.
“This move is completely contrary to science,” she said.
Beijing has spent billions of dollars building solar and wind farms to reduce dependence on imported oil and gas and clean up its haze-ridden cities. China accounted for nearly half of global investment in wind and solar in 2020.
Nevertheless, coal is expected to supply 60% of its electricity in the near future.
Beijing is cutting millions of jobs to ease its bloated, state-owned coal mining industry, but production and consumption are still on the rise.
Officials say they are reducing carbon emissions per unit of economic output. The government reported a reduction of 3.8% last year, which is better than the 1% in 2020, but less than the 5.1% reduction in 2017.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, total energy use last year increased by 5.2% compared to 2020 after a revival in global demand for Chinese exports, fueled by a spurt in manufacturing.
Stimulus spending could also increase carbon production if it pays to build more bridges, train stations and other public works. This will give a boost to carbon-intensive steel and cement production.
Greenpeace’s Li said China’s coal-fired power plants operate on average at about half their capacity, but building more creates jobs and economic activity. He said that even though electricity is not needed right now, local leaders face pressure to pay for themselves.
“It locks China into a more high-carbon path,” Li said. “It’s very difficult to fix.”