China continuing with coal

A characteristic of climate change policies around the world is a disjuncture between targets states adopt and the policies they implement. States pledge to keep warming below 1.5-2.0 ˚C, but then make all sorts of choices which are fundamentally at odds with that trajectory: not pricing carbon, building new high-carbon infrastructure, and generally failing to act with seriousness and urgency.

A New York Times story demonstrates how bad the disjoint in Chinese policy is. They note: “Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal” and “The fleet of new coal plants would make it virtually impossible to meet the goals set in the Paris climate accord”. Most of the proposed construction is outside China:

Shanghai Electric Group, one of the country’s largest electrical equipment makers, has announced plans to build coal power plants in Egypt, Pakistan and Iran with a total capacity of 6,285 megawatts — almost 10 times the 660 megawatts of coal power it has planned in China.

At a time when the disastrous climate plans of Trump and the U.S. Republicans are making people hope that Chinese leadership can fill the gap, China’s unwillingness to abandon coal is a major reason why today’s policies are still leading toward global climate catastrophe.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

7 thoughts on “China continuing with coal”

  1. In a speech by video-link, Xi Jinping, China’s president, told the un on September 21st that his country would stop supporting new coal-power projects overseas. Since 2013, 95% of the funding for coal-fired power plants that came from outside the countries where the plants are located has come from China, Japan and South Korea. In April South Korea vowed to end state-backed financing of coal plants abroad; in June Japan pledged to do the same. Climate campaigners are celebrating China’s decision to follow suit.

    By some estimates, 70% of all coal plants being built today rely to some degree on China’s cash. Cutting off this source will hobble the building and operation of such projects in poor countries, where demand for power is often difficult to meet without foreign help. But by mentioning only overseas coal, Mr Xi glossed over China’s own dependence on the stuff. Last year, the country’s power plants produced over half the world’s coal-generated electricity. It continued adding new coal-fired power capacity at a pace of roughly a new coal plant a week. China is already moving away from funding coal plants abroad anyway, mostly because of the falling price of renewable energy.

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