China: the World's most Polluting Country Redoubles its Coal Plants

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In 2022, China granted an average of two new licenses to operate coal plants per week. These actions by the Asian giant call into question the fulfillment of its climate commitments.

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: China: el país más contaminante del mundo redobla sus plantas de carbón

report by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM) and the Center for Research in Energy and Clean Air (CREA), released this Monday, February 27, points to worrying data on investment in coal-fired power plants of the Asian giant. According to the report, by 2022, China will have approved the construction of two large coal plants a week, on average. This increase represents the highest since 2015 and is 50% higher than in 2021.

The report also notes that the coal-fired power capacity that China began building last year is six times that of the rest of the world combined. On the other hand, it is estimated that of half of the permits granted in 2022, half of the plants are already operational. CREA and GEM noted, "Many of these projects obtained their fast-track and construction permits in a matter of months." These plants produce around 86 gigawatts, most located in the Guangdong, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, and Hubei regions.

The Chinese government approved all these projects and accelerated their construction due to the multiple blackouts that occurred in 2021, the energy crisis experienced in various parts of the world, and the increase in the price of coal. However, it should also be noted that China has accelerated and broken records for installing clean energy plants. However, these achievements are clouded by investments in coal, one of the ways of obtaining energy that should be discouraged and phased out. "Decarbonization requires substantial changes in the network infrastructure, market mechanisms, the regulatory framework, and central planning processes," says a CREA statement.

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Concern over China's Commitment to Climate Change

China, for several years, has remained in first or second place of the countries with the highest carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. However, it has also been making significant investments in clean energy in recent years. In fact, according to the government, this country is expected to reach peak carbon emissions in 2030 and 30 years later, in 2060, to reach carbon neutrality.

However, the fact that China has put so much investment into coal threatens its purposes. Although the report mentioned above indicates that these plants will not necessarily increase the number of gases, they will undoubtedly affect compliance with the commitments in the fight against climate change, especially since they have required significant economic investments. "If China is to meet its climate commitments, these new coal plants will be bad investments, short-lived and underused," CREA said.

The arguments for continuing to invest in polluting energy are usually related to the difficulties posed by the storage and distribution of clean energy or renewable sources. However, the report notes that real political commitment is also needed beyond this. "While many technologies, such as pumped hydro, lithium-ion batteries, and demand-side technologies, are as mature as coal power and ready for broader adoption, current energy systems and policy frameworks remain leading developers to opt for coal," state the conclusions of the report.

Lastly, it is also essential that deep transformations be started in homes so that they have energy-efficient systems with the use of air conditioning and heating.