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Climate warning

China increases coal power to get electricity for air conditioning

Despite promises to reduce emissions, China expands coal power. Despite repeated reports pointing to human emissions as the culprit behind global warming, China is increasing its use of coal power. A paradoxical explanation is increased demand for electricity when heat records cause air conditioning to go into overdrive. This summer, new heat records have been broken in China and elsewhere in the world. July this year was the hottest month ever recorded globally, according to statistics from the UN Meteorological Organization WMO and the EU's Copernicus Climate Service. In China's capital, Beijing, the temperature has exceeded 40 degrees several times. In Sanbao in China's northwestern province of Xinjiang, the thermometer rose in mid-July to a record high of 52.2 degrees. Countless scientific reports have established that human emissions are behind the warming, and have for several years called for reduced emissions. Heat waves have swept over Beijing this summer. Yet the world's biggest emitter, China, is increasing production of the dirtiest energy source, coal. In June, the amount of electricity coming from coal in China increased by 14 percent compared to the corresponding month in 2022. At the same time, there were plans for over 300 new coal-fired power plants in January this year, according to the research group Global Energy Monitor. That is two-thirds of all coal-fired power that is built in the world. The development runs counter to China's high tail-wagging on climate issues and stands in contrast to the country's investment in renewable energy such as solar and wind power. China is more concerned about having energy than limiting global warming as a result of climate change, says Karl Hallding, chief analyst at the innovation agency Vinnova with many years of experience monitoring climate work in China. Fact. Coal accounts for over half of China's electricity supply In June this year, the amount of electricity coming from coal in China increased by 14 percent compared to the corresponding month last year. In the last two years, the coal industry has expanded. Last year, coal accounted for 56.2 percent of China's electricity production, according to the China Bureau of Statistics. The second largest source of energy is oil, followed by gas, hydropower, wind power and solar power in descending order. One explanation is that China puts energy security first. Heat waves in 2021 and 2022 led to power shortages and blackouts, partly due to increased demand as more people used air conditioning. Factories were disrupted in their production, elevators stopped running when power grids became overloaded and drought reduced electricity supplies from hydroelectric plants. China's response was to increase coal power - despite the country already accounting for almost a third of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. A contributing factor to the increase is that during energy crises, provinces have hoarded electricity instead of sharing it with areas where the shortage is worst. Therefore, local governments have built coal-fired power plants in their provinces. Everything to keep the wheels rolling in times when the economy has not yet recovered from the pandemic. In Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, this summer the Air Force invited residents to cool off in something called the Arctic Rock. In the area they offer free tea, wireless connection, newspapers and medicines. In Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, this summer the Air Force invited residents to cool off in something called the Arctic Rock. In the area they offer free tea, wireless connection, newspapers and medicines. However, the picture is not clear cut. At the same time as the increase in coal use, China is a world leader in the expansion of renewable energy such as solar and wind power. China has installed 3.5 times as much solar power capacity as the US and 2.6 times as much wind power, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. But the solar and wind farms are often located in provinces far from the coast where the largest part of the population and energy-consuming companies are located. And the expansion of power lines that transport the energy across provincial borders has not proceeded at the same pace. To guarantee a stable electricity supply, the solution has become coal power. - One problem is that China is not a functioning market economy. The planned economy in and of itself creates incentives to build solar and wind farms, but not to expand an electricity grid that efficiently supplies the electricity. That makes the energy system inefficient, says Karl Hallding. Internationally, China is often highlighted as a leader in the transition to green energy. That image is false, says Karl Hallding. According to him, China's climate goals are far from ambitious enough. The goal of reducing emissions starting in 2030 allows China to increase its emissions until then. This is because the country has so far been grouped with developing countries in the climate negotiations. But already in the coming year, China is expected to be counted as a high-income country, according to the World Bank's classification. Karl Hallding therefore calls for much higher demands to be placed on China in the climate negotiations. - It should be clearer in diplomacy what dominant role China plays globally in the increase in carbon dioxide emissions. The pressure on China needs to increase, a spade must be called a spade, says Karl Hallding. Karl Hallding does not understand how China's goal of being climate neutral by 2060, i.e. having zero net emissions, goes together with the fact that emissions do not have to be reduced until after 2030. - There is no chance that China can be climate neutral in 2060 if, as now, they continue to expand coal power. Thus, the entire world's climate work is in danger. The World Bank has stated that the global climate goals are impossible to achieve unless China switches to a low-emission economy.

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  • Videlis Eddie

    37 w

    This is disappointing to see china take this path instead of making the planet more favorable...

    • Jane Wangui

      41 w

      And I thought we were making commendable progress on phasing out use of coal.So disappointed in china.

      • Lucinda Ramsay

        41 w

        Counterproductive- AC pumps out hot air increasing ambient temperatures outside of the building it's cooling! It also releases greenhouse gases! It'll become a vicious cycle. There should definitely be regulations around AC use! Especially in the US where people indoors wear sweaters and people outdoors sweat!

        • Kevin

          41 w

          China is really taking a very unusual path in the climate crisis aversion.Let them be called out for retrogressive mannerisms.

          • rosebellendiritu

            41 w

            It would be easier not to use coal and instead opt for sustainable energy if at all they all need to make planet better than it is now...

            • Peter Kamau

              41 w

              It's the high time that China took stringent measures to avert the climate crisis and it'd be very necessary to ditch mainly the coal mining business as it accounts for much of the pollution levels

              • Joseph Githinji

                41 w

                Considering the effects of the ongoing heatwaves China must reverse this decisions. This is surely sad and must be stopped.

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