China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and currently accounts for 28% of global emissions. If the world is going to mitigate climate change, China is going to have to be a part of the solution, but the country seems to go in the opposite direction.
Even in 2021, the country is still expanding its electric grid with new coal plants. In fact, this reckless expansion is now seen as the primary cause of why the world can no longer achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement.
Despite the international concern, China seems set on its course.
Why Is China Still Building Coal Plants?
In most modern nations, coal is being retired and replaced by natural gas and renewable energy sources. These sources are more efficient and even cheaper than coal. This raises the question, why is China still building coal plants?
In just 2021, China is planning 43 new coal plants, which will result in a 1.5% annual increase in emissions. To put this into perspective, China is building more coal plants than the rest of the world combined.
And the actual reason is pretty simple, China needs more energy to support its growing energy grid.
Coal plants are simple to construct and can start providing energy to the grid very quickly. This makes them an ideal candidate for China to rapidly expand its energy generation. However, that doesn’t make it right.
What About China’s Climate Change Pledge?
In 2020, China announced its own climate pledge in which it will achieve net-zero emissions by 2060, 10 years later than every other country. And while it may seem like an expansion of coal power is hypocritical, it’s actually in line with the goal.
If you take a closer look at the pledge China made, it planned to reach peak emissions by 2030. Or in other words, its emissions will continue to rise until 2030, at which point they will begin to decrease.
Thus, adding new coal plants to the grid doesn’t actually prevent them from reaching their goal, but it does make it harder.
The problem is that the world cannot sustain this pledge. China needs to begin cutting emissions today otherwise the planet will get too warm.
Isn’t China the World Leader in Renewable Energy?
While most people don’t necessarily think of china and renewable energy together, it is the country that produces the most renewable energy in the world. And this isn’t by a small margin either, it completely dominates in the industry.
In 2020, China generated 895 gigawatts of energy from renewables. In second place was the United States at 292 gigawatts.
It also accounted for 50% of the world’s renewable energy growth.
China is not only growing its coal plants but just about every other source of energy generation in the country. The amount of power it takes to sustain the manufacturing capital of the world is staggering, to say the least.
Thus while China is taking steps in the right direction to fight climate change, it is undoing all of that work by continuing to build coal plants
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.