China has committed to achieving “carbon peak” by 2030 and “carbon neutrality” by 2060, or likewise referred to as the “dual carbon” goal. However, experts said that such promise is unlikely to become reality due to the country’s over-reliance on coal and its tech limitations.

In April 2021, China declared that it would strictly control coal power projects as well as the growth rate of coal consumption in their 14th Five Year Plan (from 2021 to 2025), thus fulfilling the “dual carbon” commitment. China also vowed to comply with the objectives and principles laid out in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement.

However, the International Energy Agency released its 2021 coal annual report on Dec. 17, which revealed that China could occupy more than one-third of global growth in coal consumption. IEA said that China is the world’s largest coal producer, consumer and importer, and also the only large country that increased its global coal demand in 2020.

China vigorously promotes coal power projects

In its April 2021 report, IEA estimated that China’s carbon dioxide emissions could increase by 500 million tons in 2021.

According to the report, China’s coal consumption is the main cause of carbon emissions, and the increase in carbon emissions in 2021 is mainly due to the substantial increase in coal consumption in the power sector. 

The sharp rise in demand for coal power also makes it difficult to achieve China’s goal of strictly controlling the growth of coal consumption set in the 14th Five Year Plan.

The environmental protection organization “Greenpeace” disclosed on Dec. 17 that, as of Nov. 2021, up to 85.6% of China’s approved coal power projects in 2020 had been put into operation or under construction, with a corresponding installed capacity of 35.786 million kilowatts. It led to a substantial increase in the installed capacity of coal power.

Greenpeace East Asia, a low carbon development policy research group, has confirmed, based on public data and satellite remote sensing imagery, that Chinese authorities were pushing ahead with their coal-fired power plant projects throughout 2021.

According to the Operational Profile of the Electric Power Industry released by the China Electricity Council, from January to November 2021, the total electricity consumption in China was about 7.500 billion kWh, an increase of 11.4% from the previous year.

A new briefing released by Greenpeace indicated that, as of the end of November 2021, among 82 coal power projects approved in 2020, 51 were under construction and 4 had been put into operation, with a total installed capacity of about 35 million kilowatts. It accounts for about 85.6% of the total installed capacity of approved coal power projects in 2020. In addition, 12 projects of the 24 unconstructed approved projects have issued construction bidding information, with a total installed capacity of 2.1 million kilowatts, accounting for 35.7% of the installed capacity of unconstructed projects.

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