According to a new study by Greenpeace, China approved the production of more than 50 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power in the first half of 2023. Despite being the world’s leading carbon polluter, China’s focus appears to be on energy security rather than reducing fossil fuel consumption.
The environmental group’s research, published Thursday, shows that the 20.45 GW of new coal approved in the first quarter of 2023 has doubled to 50.4 GW by the end of the second quarter.
Scientists and environmentalists are calling on governments to make far-reaching emission cuts after record-breaking heat waves around the world.
Extreme weather prompts Chinese coal power plants
However, the repercussions of extreme weather have led China to build even more coal-fired plants as it attempts to counter the effects of drought on hydropower production and avoid power cuts.
“China’s government has put energy security and energy transition at odds with one another,” Greenpeace’s Gao Yuhe, who led the research, told Reuters news agency.
China has made promises to bring carbon emissions to a peak before 2030, but another vow made by President Xi Jinping to start cutting coal use over the 2026-2030 period is now under threat, Gao said.
“Beijing has clearly stated that coal power will still grow at a ‘reasonable pace’ into 2030,” she added.
Gao said in a statement published by Greenpeace that it was clear that there’s money to be made in becoming a green manufacturing hub, and provinces are cued in on that. But there is no “adequate guidance” from the federal government.
“China’s race to lead the green economy has begun. But the competitors are just guessing which way to go. Provinces need to develop clear guidance. And in China that requires policy signals from the central government. Coal is the problem. The signal remains that coal is still an option. The race has begun but there’s still coal on the course,” Gao said.
On Thursday, Greenpeace urged an end to new coal approvals in China as it published the research.
The group also called for “a systematic policy shift to support not only wind and solar, but also the green energy solutions like energy storage that will be central to China’s energy transition starting today.”