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China’s coal reliance raises alarm as UN moves net-zero deadlines

China’s plans for some 100 new coal-fired power plants to back up wind and solar capacity have sparked the latest debate. PHOTO/FILE


The call by the UN secretary general António Guterres for a “quantum leap” on climate action has “heightened concern about China’s coal reliance among climate analysts”, writes the South China Morning Post.

It adds that China’s “reluctance to ditch coal due to energy-security concerns – as “evidenced” by Beijing’s “recent greenlighting of more coal-fired power plants – will make the country’s decarbonisation progress “even harder”.

The “newly announced” decarbonisation deadlines put a “spotlight” on China, which is the world’s “largest” GHG emitter, accounting for “a third of global GHG emissions, as well as the largest producer and consumer of coal, relying on the fuel to generate over 60% of its electricity last year”.

The Hong-based newspaper is referring to comments made by Guterres on Monday when the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] report was released where he called for richer, developed nations to move faster than their current net-zero commitments.

His remarks have caused some confusion over whether he was referring to CO2 or GHG emissions says Carbon Brief. Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at climate thinktank the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, is quoted saying that “it’s clear that meeting the global emissions goals outlined by [Guterres] requires much faster emissions reductions than China is currently prepared to target”.

Additionally, the journal Science has published an article by Christoph Nedopil, who is affiliated with Fudan University’s Fanhai International School of Finance, titled: “Lessons from China’s overseas coal exit and domestic support.”

Relatedly, Reuters has published an analysis article by David Stanway and Muyu Xu titled: “China’s new coal plants set to become a costly second fiddle to renewables.”

It begins: “China’s plans for some 100 new coal-fired power plants to back up wind and solar capacity have sparked warnings that the world’s second-biggest economy is likely to end up lumbered with even more loss-making power assets.

Analysts question the logic of policies that intend to reduce the role of the dirtiest fossil fuel but at the same time require more coal-fired power plants to be built – especially given that only a small number of older plants are typically retired each year.” The Times says that “China’s emergence from years of Covid lockdowns is likely to push oil prices back up to average almost $90 a barrel this year, according to leading analysts”.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping met in Moscow “for two days of talks which ended Tuesday, during which they discussed a major new infrastructure project, Power-of-Siberia 2, to deliver gas to China via Mongolia”.

It notes that Putin said Russia, China and Mongolia had completed “all agreements” on “finishing the pipeline to ship Russian gas to China and that Russia will deliver at least 98bn cubic metres (bcm) of gas to China by 2030”, although a “subsequent” Russian statement said “pipeline details still need to be resolved”.

Wang Yuanda, China gas analyst at data intelligence firm ICIS, is quoted saying: “The original target is for China to import 38bcm of Russia gas by 2025. Now Russia is saying this will reach 98bcm by 2030. That is a very big jump, so it pays to be slightly cautious on that.”

He adds: “China will also be wary of finding itself in a similar position to Europe if it becomes more reliant on Russia.” Quartz runs a story under the headline: “China is gobbling up Russian oil, gas, and coal.” Bloomberg carries a comment piece by David Fickling titled: “Why China keeps pulling the rug on Putin’s pipeline.”

In other China news, the Shanghai-based Sixth Tone carries an article titled: “In China, climate change disrupts a beloved tradition: cherry blossom season.”

It says that, viewed from a “longer-term perspective, the date is even more striking”, adding that “historical data shows that the trees now flower significantly earlier than they did in the past”.

And China Dialogue writes that “some progress has already been made on disaster preparedness” in Malawi, including a “collaborative project launched in 2014 by Malawi, China and UNDP to support communities in reducing disaster risks”.

It adds that the first phase of the programme from 2014 to 2017, which is to “increase vulnerable communities in rural districts’ resilience to flooding”, China contributed $500,000 and UNDP $400,000.

The article says it is an example of “south-south cooperation, meaning an exchange of resources, technology and knowledge between emerging economies in the global south, rather than from global north to global south nations”.

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