China's climate targets compromised by increased coal usage

Coal dependency threatens China’s 2025 goals.

China is off track to meet several climate targets for 2025 due to increase in coal use and investment in coal power, however, there are still potential strategies that China might employ to align with its climate objectives.

Qi Qin, China Analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said that China has cited specific targets for reducing carbon intensity by 2030, but the progress towards the targets has been mixed. 

To redirect its trajectory towards achieving its 2025 climate goals, Qin said that it requires either an acceleration in clean energy deployment beyond its current pace or a deceleration in the growth of energy demand. 

"Meeting specific targets will necessitate stricter control over new coal projects and a continuation of the rapid clean energy expansion," Qin elaborated.

She noted that carbon intensity has only fallen by 5% in the 45-year plan period, far behind the target of 18%. She pointed out similar shortcomings in energy intensity reduction and the share of non-fossil and renewable energy, which remain below their respective goals.

Qin also revealed that despite significant advancements in clean energy, particularly solar, China's reliance on coal has surged. "Annual coal consumption growth and new coal power capacity additions have accelerated sharply since 2021," Qin highlighted. 

This increase is attributed to a policy shift favoring coal power expansion, with a notable rise in new coal power plant constructions and approvals. This contradicts China's prior commitments to curtail new coal projects, a move that has sparked debate within the country.

Despite these challenges, Qin said that the increased share of non-fossil fuel energy appears within reach, assuming China can navigate the complexities of its energy demand and supply dynamics effectively. 

The crucial factor will be China's ability to leverage its clean energy sector's growth to counterbalance its coal dependency, a task that demands strategic foresight and robust policy interventions.

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