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A worker walks past coal piles at a coal coking plant in Yuncheng, Shanxi province, China on January 31, 2018. Source: William Hong/Reuters.
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  • China was responsible for 53 per cent of the world’s total coal-fired power last year despite climate promises and hundreds of new renewable energy plants
  • While it added 71.7 gigawatts of wind power and 48.2 gigawatts of solar, it was the only G20 nation to see a major jump in coal-fired power generation
  • China has pledged to reduce its dependence on coal in an effort to bring its greenhouse gas emissions to a peak by 2030 before becoming carbon neutral by 2060
  • However, it has so far been unable to find enough clean energy to meet rapid increases in electricity demand
  • Renewables met only around half of China’s power consumption growth last year

China was responsible for 53 per cent of the world’s total coal-fired power last year — nine per cent more than five years earlier — despite climate promises and hundreds of new renewable energy plants.

While it added 71.7 gigawatts of wind power and 48.2 gigawatts of solar, it was the only G20 nation to see a major jump in coal-fired power generation, according to London-based energy and climate research group Ember.

The report showed that China’s coal-fired generation rose by 1.7 per cent or 77 terawatt-hours, enough to bring its share of total global coal power to 53 per cent compared to 44 per cent in 2015.

China has pledged to reduce its dependence on coal in an effort to bring its greenhouse gas emissions to a peak by 2030 before becoming carbon neutral by 2060.

“China is like a big ship, and it takes time to turn in another direction,” said Muyi Yang, a senior analyst at Ember who worked on the report.

The country vowed in its 2021–2025 five-year plan to “rationally control the scale and pace of development in the construction of coal-fired power,” but has so far been unable to find enough clean energy to meet rapid increases in electricity demand.

Renewables met only around half of China’s power consumption growth last year.

“I think there will be a cap on coal consumption, and that will have a major impact on the future trajectory for coal power,” Yang added.

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