Analysts Warn That China’s Coal Surge Is Jeopardizing Global Climate Goals

Several countries have pledged to cut down and ultimately stop their use of coal in energy generation amid global efforts to reduce greenhouse carbon emissions and halt climate change. The need for cleaner power generation means, such as solar and wind, has grown even greater in recent years as climate change has caused extreme weather events across the world such as wildfires and extreme cold.

However, China has spent the last few months accelerating plans to build new coal-fired power plants. In the last half of 2022, China grew its coal project pipeline by a whopping 50% to bring its total coal power generation to 250 GW. This is despite the fact that China, which is the top carbon emitter in the world, pledged to cut down coal use and reduce its emissions.

While China was going on a coal spree over the last months of 2022, the rest of the globe reduced coal power plants to just 97 GW.

Although China is still a top player in renewable energy and is adding renewable power to its energy grid as fast as the rest of the world, experts believe the recent surge in coal-power plant approvals is a “direct threat” to the Paris Agreement goal.

According to the Program Lead for Research and Analysis at think-tank E3G’s Fossil Fuel Transition team Leo Roberts, each new coal-fired power plant makes it more difficult to decarbonize the global economy. Roberts argued that China’s coal spree is “undermining significant progress” and negating the efforts of other nations across the world that are turning away from coal to cleaner sources of energy.

Furthermore, a prior statement from the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that no new coal power plants can be brought online if the world is to meet the goal of limiting the increase of global temperature to just 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

While China’s decision to approve a historic amount of new coal power plants has been met with pushback from climate change activists, it is not that surprising. An energy crunch that was exacerbated by geopolitical tensions has resulted in major energy shortages and caused energy prices to surge, forcing countries around the world to scramble to secure enough energy supplies ahead of the winter.

The bleak energy landscape probably incentivized Chinese policymakers to reconsider their previous climate-change promises and turn back to coal, which China has in droves. Lawmakers are keen on preventing last year’s power outages from occurring, especially as the hot summer months result in a spike in energy demand due to increased air-conditioner use.

China is now responsible for 72% of global planned capacity followed by India, Turkey, and Indonesia.

The energy shortages, which coal miners such as Arch Resources Inc. (NYSE: ARCH) are helping to plug, will make it harder for the world to transition away from coal, as the change of heart in China clearly demonstrates.

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