SHANGHAI: Though China is aiming to roll out record amounts of renewable capacity this year as decarbonisation elsewhere stalls, economic challenges mean Beijing is unlikely to tackle rising coal consumption ahead of schedule – and may hit a more painful peak.
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged last year to “strictly control” coal and start cutting its use starting in 2026 to bring its climate-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to a peak before 2030. China’s emissions are the highest in the world.
Although those targets are unlikely to change, environmental groups fear growing energy security concerns mean coal use and CO2 emissions could peak at a much higher level than planned.
Chinese energy officials have been drawing attention to the “return to coal” in Europe amid oil and gas supply disruptions during the Ukraine conflict, noting China’s shift to clean energy will not waver. State media have accused Europe of hypocrisy when it comes to climate action.
“As global energy supplies tightened last year, and as many countries in Europe restart coal-fired power, the development of our country’s non-fossil fuel energy has continued unabated,” Zhang Jianhua, head of China’s energy bureau, said during a briefing last month.
Germany reconnected a mothballed coal plant to the grid this month and is expected to ramp up coal imports to keep power stations running as Russian gas supplies dwindle.