Story at a glance

  • China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, increased the electricity generated by burning coal last year and is working to bring a large number of additional coal plants online, according to a new report.
  • “An increase in China’s coal power capacity is not compatible with the Paris Climate Agreement to hold warming well below 2 °C,” wrote the report’s authors.
  • At the same time, global investment in renewable energy fell.

The climate targets laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement are looking increasingly lofty. Coal use is rising in China and other developing countries in Asia, and investments in clean and renewable energy sources are declining, the MIT Technology Review reports

The prodigious economic growth of China, India and other emerging markets is predicted to continue for decades. If these surging economies continue to run on fossil fuels, the predicted carbon dioxide emissions place the world on a path toward climate disaster.

China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is increasing the electricity it generates by burning coal, according to a new report. The country added nearly 43 gigawatts from coal power plants from January 2018 to June 2019. 

The rest of the world’s use of coal declined by 8 gigawatts in the same period. Even more troubling, China is working on bringing another 150 gigawatts-worth of coal plants online — about the same amount of electricity produced by coal plants in the entire European Union.

The report’s authors were unambiguous about the implications of China’s coal revival: “An increase in China’s coal power capacity is not compatible with the Paris Climate Agreement to hold warming well below 2 °C.”

At the same time, an analysis of more than 100 emerging countries found that investments in renewable energy sources like solar and wind power declined by $36 billion in 2018 — falling from $169 billion the previous year to $133 billion.

China accounted for much of this decline — with clean energy investment dropping from $122 billion in 2017 to just $86 billion in 2018. Investment in renewables also fell by $2.4 billion in India and $2.7 billion in Brazil. 

Overall, 2018 saw more clean energy capacity added than fossil fuels, but China’s construction of new carbon-belching coal plants will make the emissions reductions necessary to slow the climate crisis even harder to achieve.

Published on Nov 25, 2019