China promotes coal in setback for efforts to cut emissions

Apr 23, 2022, 7:07 PM | Updated: Apr 25, 2022, 2:20 pm
FILE - Smoke and steam rise from towers at the coal-fired Urumqi Thermal Power Plant as seen from a...

FILE - Smoke and steam rise from towers at the coal-fired Urumqi Thermal Power Plant as seen from a plane in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 21, 2021. China is promoting coal-fired power as the ruling Communist Party tries to revive a sluggish economy, prompting warnings that Beijing is setting back efforts to cut climate-changing carbon emissions from the biggest global source. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

BEIJING (AP) — China is promoting coal-fired power as the ruling Communist Party tries to revive a sluggish economy, prompting warnings Beijing is setting back efforts to cut climate-changing carbon emissions from the biggest global source.

Official plans call for boosting coal production capacity by 300 million tons this year, according to news reports. That is equal to 7% of last year’s output of 4.1 billion tons, which was an increase of 5.7% over 2020.

China is one of the biggest investors in wind and solar, but jittery leaders called for more coal-fired power after economic growth plunged last year and shortages caused blackouts and factory shutdowns. Russia’s attack on Ukraine added to anxiety that foreign oil and coal supplies might be disrupted.

“This mentality of ensuring energy security has become dominant, trumping carbon neutrality,” said Li Shuo, a senior global policy adviser for 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 prepares to try to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as ruling party leader in the autumn.

Coal is important for “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 also is building power plants to inject money into the economy and revive growth that sank to 4% over a year earlier in the final quarter of 2021, down from the full year’s 8.1% expansion.

Governments have pledged to try to limit warming of the atmosphere to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the level of pre-industrial times. Leaders say what they really want is a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Scientists say even if the world hits the 2-degree goal in the 2015 Paris climate pact and the 2021 Glasgow follow-up agreement, that still will lead to higher seas, stronger storms, extinctions of plants and animals and more people dying from heat, smog and infectious diseases.

China is the top producer and consumer of coal. Global trends hinge on what Beijing does.

The Communist Party has rejected binding emissions commitments, citing its economic development needs. Beijing has avoided joining governments that promised to phase out use of coal-fired power.

In a 2020 speech to the United Nations, Xi said carbon emissions will peak by 2030, but he announced no target for the amount. Xi said China aims for carbon neutrality, or removing as much from the atmosphere by planting trees and other tactics as is emitted by industry and households, by 2060.

China accounts for 26.1% of global emissions, more than double the U.S. share of 12.8%, according to the World Resources Institute. Rhodium Group, a research firm, says China emits more than all developed economies combined.

Per person, China’s 1.4 billion people on average emit the equivalent of 8.4 tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to WRI. That is less than half the U.S. average of 17.7 tons but more than the European Union’s 7.5 tons.

China has abundant supplies of coal and produced more than 90% of the 4.4 billion tons it burned last year. More than half of its oil and gas is imported and leaders see that as a strategic risk.

China’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2060 appears to be on track, but using more coal “could jeopardize this, or at least slow it down and make it more costly,” Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigations Agency said in an email.

Promoting coal will make emissions “much higher than they need to be” by the 2030 peak year, said Perry.

“This move runs entirely counter to the science,” she said.

Beijing has spent tens of billions of dollars on building solar and wind farms to reduce reliance on imported oil and gas and clean up its smog-choked cities. China accounted for about half of global investment in wind and solar in 2020.

Still, coal is expected to supply 60% of its power in the near future.

Beijing is cutting millions of jobs to shrink its bloated, state-owned coal mining industry, but output and consumption still are rising.

Authorities say they are shrinking carbon emissions per unit of economic output. The government reported a reduction of 3.8% last year, better than 2020´s 1% but down from a 5.1% cut in 2017.

Last year’s total energy use increased 5.2% over 2020 after a revival of global demand for Chinese exports propelled a manufacturing boom, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Stimulus spending also might raise carbon output if it pays for building more bridges, train stations and other public works. That would encourage carbon-intensive steel and cement production.

China’s coal-fired power plants operate at about half their capacity on average, but building more creates jobs and economic activity, said Greenpeace’s Li. He said even if the power isn’t needed now, local leaders face pressure to make them pay for themselves.

“That locks China into a more high-carbon path,” Li said. “It’s very difficult to fix.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

NASA satellite breaks from orbit around Earth, heads to moon

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A satellite the size of a microwave oven successfully broke free from its orbit around Earth on Monday and is headed toward the moon, the latest step in NASA’s plan to land astronauts on the lunar surface again. It’s been an unusual journey already for the Capstone satellite. It was […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

It’s a new era for funding on both sides of abortion debate

NEW YORK (AP) — The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has ushered in a new era of funding on both sides of the abortion debate. With the legality of abortion now up to individual states to determine, an issue long debated by legislators and philanthropists — when it was largely theoretical because only […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

Swiss NGO calls out gov’t as it hosts meeting on Ukraine

LUGANO, Switzerland (AP) — A leading Swiss nongovernmental group on Monday called out Switzerland as a “safe haven” for Russian oligarchs and as a trading hub for Russian oil, grain and coal. Public Eye called on the Swiss executive branch to “use all levers at its disposal to stop the financing of this inhuman aggression,” […]
4 hours ago
Some 25 tractors parked outside a distribution center for supermarket chain Albert Heijn during a b...
Associated Press

Dutch farmers block entrances to supermarket warehouses

ZAANDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch farmers angry at government plans to slash emissions used tractors and trucks Monday to blockade supermarket distribution centers, the latest actions in a summer of discontent in the country’s lucrative agricultural sector. The Netherlands’ busiest aviation hub, Schiphol Airport, urged travelers to use public transport to get to its terminals […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

Iran TV: Sandstorm shuts offices, schools in Tehran, region

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Schools and government offices closed in Iran’s capital and several other cities in the country on Monday, after yet another sandstorm blanketed Tehran and the surrounding region. State-run TV warned of poor air quality and advised the elderly, those sick and children to take precautions. Banks and the Tehran Stock Exchange […]
4 hours ago
FILE - Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese-born Canadian billionaire talks to reporters outside the Internation...
Associated Press

Canadian government: Tycoon in China due to stand trial

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese-born Canadian tycoon is being put on trial in China, Canada’s government said Monday, five years after he vanished from Hong Kong during an anti-corruption crackdown. Xiao Jianhua was due to stand trial Monday, a government statement said. It said Canadian diplomats were “monitoring this case closely” and provided unspecified services […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
China promotes coal in setback for efforts to cut emissions