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China approves 106 GW of coal project, derails climate commitments

Coal approvals rose fourfold in 2020 and 2023, compared to the 2016-2020 period.

China accelerated its coal permitting, approving 106 gigawatts (GW) of coal power projects and started the construction of 70 GW in 2023, making the country “badly off track” of its several climate targets for 2025.

In a report, Global Energy Monitor (GEM) and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air added that China also started the operations of 47 GW of coal projects and announced 108 GW of new projects last year.

“China’s ongoing coal plant permitting and construction boom continues to be at odds with President Xi’s pledge to strictly control new coal power projects, and out of step with the rest of the world,” said GEM analyst Flora Champenois.

ALSO READ: New coal plant construction outside China to reach nine-year low

“Overbuilding coal ‘just in case’ and with a ‘we’ll deal with that later’ approach is a costly and risky gamble, especially when alternative solutions are available to meet targets and address energy security,” she added.

Under the Paris Agreement, China committed to “strictly limit” coal consumption growth, and reduce energy intensity and carbon intensity. It also aims to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in the energy mix to 20% and generate over 50% of the increase in energy use from renewable sources.

However, its approval rose fourfold over 2022 and 2023, compared to 2016 to 2020.

In 2022, around 218 GW of new coal plants were permitted, of which 89 GW started construction in 2023, with 128 GW remaining to break ground.

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