In an attempt to revive a sluggish economy, the ruling Communist Party is promoting coal-fired power, which is threatening efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gasses.
The government plans to increase coal production by 300 million tons this year, according to news reports. This is 7% of last year’s output of 4.1 billion tons, an increase of 5.7% over 2020.
The country invests heavily in wind and solar power, but jittery leaders are calling for more coal-fired power after economic growth slowed last year and shortages triggered blackouts and factory shutdowns. Anxiety over the disruption of oil and coal supplies from abroad was heightened by Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
The government faces political pressure to maintain stability as President Xi Jinping prepares to break with tradition by seeking a third 5-year term as party leader.
In an April 20 meeting where plans to expand production capacity were approved, Cabinet officials said coal plays a vital role in ensuring energy security.
Additionally, the ruling party plans to build power plants to inject money into the economy and revive growth that dropped to 4% in the final quarter of 2021 from 8.1% for the full year.
The international community has committed to limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Leaders say they really want a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Scientists say that even if the world achieves the 2-degree goal in the 2015 Paris climate pact and the 2021 Glasgow follow-up agreement, there will still be higher seas, stronger storms, extinctions of plants and animals, and more deaths due to heat, smog, and infectious disease.
China is the world’s largest coal producer and consumer. Beijing’s actions determine global trends.
According to the Communist Party, binding emissions commitments are not necessary for economic development. China has not joined governments that have pledged to phase out coal-fired power.
In his 2020 speech to the United Nations, Xi predicted carbon emissions would peak by 2030, but he did not specify an amount. By 2060, Xi said, China will be carbon neutral, which means it will remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it emits in industry and households.
According to the World Resources Institute, China accounts for 26.1% of global emissions, nearly double the U.S. share of 12.8%. Rhodium Group estimates that China emits more than all developed economies combined.
The WRI estimates that each of China’s 1.4 billion people emits 8.4 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Compared with the U.S. average of 17.7 tons, this is more than double the 7.5 tons produced by the European Union.