Multiple coal-fired power plants have been closed over the past year

China commits to raft of carbon-intensive coal and steel projects in 2021

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

China has committed to a series of carbon-intensive projects in the first half of 2021, a report has found, on the same week that the UN urged immediate global action to tackle climate change.

In an analysis, the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said that China’s newly approved steel and coal power facilities will collectively emit CO2 equivalent to the Netherlands' total emissions.

This includes a total of 18 new blast furnaces with a total capacity of 35 million tonnes of steel per year and 43 new coal-fired power plant units. If approved and built, they will emit an estimated 150 million tonnes of CO2 a year, the report estimates.

State-owned power and steel firms have continued to build and announce new coal-based projects, even as China’s leadership has pledged to aim for carbon neutrality by 2060.

A landmark report from the UN earlier this week issued a stark warning that anthropogenic climate change is already having a devastating and deadly impact on communities around the world and called for drastic decarbonisation efforts and a reduction in fossil fuel usage to tackle the problem.

Power generation and steelmaking are the two largest CO2 emitting sectors in China and have been the main drivers of the steep increase in China’s emissions since the end of Covid-19 lockdowns.

Thermal power generation has increased by 15 per cent and steel output 14 per cent in the first half of 2021, compared with pre-pandemic (2019) levels.

However, the analysis did find that attempts to peak carbon emissions appears to have gained priority in Beijing over the stimulus-fuelled, post-Covid construction boom, with a slowing of CO2 emissions growth in the second quarter of 2021.

But announcements of new coal-based capacity continued, showing the continued struggle between construction-fuelled economic growth and decarbonisation.

A report in June found that efforts by China to construct coal facilities in other countries have been shelved more often than not in the last five years as coal power becomes increasingly uneconomical in comparison to alternatives.

China has been the dominant driver of rising global emissions during this century, as well as during the past year, as its economic growth continues to outpace its counterparts in the West.

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