Coal on a cargo ship at a port in Jiangsu Province, China

China’s Problem

Coal remains at the nucleus of China’s flourishing economy. In 2019, 58 percent of the country’s total energy consumption came from coal, which helps explain why China accounts for 28 percent of all global CO2 emissions roughly the same as the next three biggest emitters combined: the United States, the European Union and India. In 2020, China brought 38.4 gigawatts of new coal-fired power into operation, more than three times what was brought on line everywhere else.

Can China Overcome Their Coal Dependence

A coal-fired power plant in Jiangsu province

New research has identified that 18% of China’s coal-fired power plants “can be retired first and rapidly” to help the nation achieve its goal of “carbon neutrality” by 2060.In recent months, China’s leadership has signaled a move toward deeper decarbonization by reiterating its Paris Agreement pledge of a 2030 emissions peak and by vowing to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, the latter goal outlined by leader Xi Jinping last September to much global fanfare.

Prominent Chinese climate scientists and policy advisers want stricter emissions limits, including virtually no new coal power projects, and they foresee a boom in solar and wind generation. Powerful provinces, state companies and industry groups say China still needs to use large amounts of coal for electricity and industry for years to come.

Chinese officials also worry about losses of jobs and investment and the resulting social strains. They argue that China still needs coal to provide a robust base of power to complement solar, wind and hydro power sources, which are more prone to fluctuating.And many energy companies backing these views are state-owned behemoths that have easy access to political leaders.

In conclusion whether China can flatten its carbon emissions in the next decade remains to be seen, and its goal of carbon neutrality by 2060 depends heavily on increasing reliance on renewable energy and nuclear power, as well as major technological advances in areas such as carbon capture-and-storage. At this point, China’s coal dependence threatens both its long-term decarbonization plans and global efforts to limit temperatures increases to 1.5-degrees Celsius (2.7 F).China must also shut down nearly 600 of its coal-fired power plants in the next 10 years, replacing them with renewable electricity generation, to meet its goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060.



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Adam Nsereko

Adam Nsereko

A young fresh look at environmental conservation