Much of the world is saying goodbye to coal-based electricity because of the high amount of greenhouse gases it releases to the atmosphere (and because it’s often just not worth it). But China remains as the single exception, having added enough coal to power 31 million homes in the last 18 months, according to a new report.
The Global Energy Monitor, a network of researchers looking at the role of fossil fuels, published the report Out of Step, showed China is in the process of building and reviving coal plants that are equivalent to the entire electricity generation capacity of the European Union.
Countries outside China decreased their coal power capacity by 8.1 GW between January 2019 and June 2019, the report showed, mainly because of retirements of plants and a decline in the number of new plants commissioned by countries.
But, in the same period, China increased coal power by 42.9 GW and as a consequence global coal power rose 34.9 GW. This was due to a set of new projects authorized by the government, with 147 GW of coal plants under construction or under suspension and likely to be revived.
The researchers argued that Increasing the coal capacity of China isn’t compatible with the Paris Agreement goal of avoiding a temperature increase of over 2 Celsius degrees, while also limiting the possibilities of China reducing its emissions according to the country’s pledge.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global group of climate scientists, said that in order to maintain on track for the Paris Agreement’s goals it will be necessary to reduce between 58 and 70% the amount of coal-generated globally by 2030, then reducing to between 85 and 90% by 2035. China will have to phase out all its coal power capacity by 2035, which puts a retirement age of between 17 to 21 years for all its coal plants. But this seems unlikely considering the government’s plans to ramp up coal electricity generation, the report argues.
Researchers are particularly worried about the fact that Chinese coal lobby groups are pushing the government to increase the country’s coal power capacity. They are proposing an increase between 20 and 40% to between 1.200 and 1.400 GW by 2035, according to the report.
“The thing we are super worried about is that industry has actually organized to keep the whole thing going,” Ted Nace, one of the researchers, told the BBC. “There are three different powerful trade groups, proposing to increase the coal fleet by 40%. This is sheer madness at this point.”