By Jack Dini
Coal is proving quite resilient despite steep declines in some economies.
New reports show how coal remains a huge share of the global mix and the scope of new plants, especially in China. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects a big rebound from the pandemic, with coal fired generation potentially hitting an all time high in 2022. 1
Giant global asset managers are still dumping tens of billions of dollars into new coal projects and hundreds of billions of dollars into major oil and gas companies. Thirty asset global managers have $82 billion in coal projects, $468 billion in oil and gas.
Despite their climate commitments, none of the 30 biggest asset managers restrict investments in fossil fuel expansion. This is incompatible with a Net Zero Scenario. The majority of the asset managers, 25 of the 30, are members of the Net Zero Asset Manager Initiative (NZAM), which is a collective of asset managers with noble climate goals: ‘committed to supporting the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner.’ Yet none of the 30 asset managers have required companies in the portfolios to quit coal, oil and gas projects. 2
China has gone all out to lift coal production in particular after an unprecedented power crunch wracked the economy in the fall.
China, the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter, continued to lead all countries in the domestic development of new coal plants, commissioning more new coal capacity in 2021 than the rest of the world combined. China has just over half the number of coal plants in the world and relies on them to generate about 60 percent of its electricity. 3
China boosted coal and gas output to record levels in March, as the nation turned to its domestic producers for security of supply after international prices skyrocketed in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 4
The amount of the reported increase would represent seven percent of China’s coal production in 2020 which was 4.1 billion tons. 5
China accounts for 26.1% of global emissions, more than double the US share of 12.8%. China emits more than all developed economies combined. 6
In spite of China’s coal activity, the country publicly demands the USA fulfill Obama’s Paris Agreement pledges, and makes a big deal of their conversion to green energy. However, behind the scenes the Chinese green scene is starting to look like a gigantic coal plant construction exercise.
Coal had nearly 80% share of India’s power mix early this year. 1
India is planning to reopen more than 100 coal mines previously considered financially unsustainable, as a heat wave driven power crisis forces the world’s third biggest greenhouse gas emitter to double down on the fuel after months of low consumption.
The world’s second largest producer, importer and consumer of coal after China expected to increase by up to 100 million tons in the next three years by reopening closed mines. 7
United Kingdom, France and Germany
Energy firms have been asked to delay the closure of UK coal fired power plants by the government. The plants were due to close in the autumn as the UK moves towards more sustainable energy production.
French energy giant EDF has been asked to delay the full closure of its West Burton A plant in Nottinghamshire.
Uniper, one of Germany’s biggest energy firms, said the government had asked it to explore the possibility of keeping its unit at Ratcliffe power station, due to close in September 2022, open for longer. 8
While China is building coal plants around the world, the United States is shuttering its coal fired power plants, despite having, by far, the world’s largest supply of coal.
In the US, IEA finds coal has been declining for well over a decade, but it’s projected it will be 24% of the power mix this year. 1
- Ben Geman, “Coal’s global staying power,” axios.com, April 27, 2022
- Catherine Clifford, “Giant global asset managers have $82 billion in coal projects, $468 billion in oil and gas,” cnbc.com, April 20, 2022
- “China ignores climate pledges, tops list in building new coal plants,” energycentral.com, April 27, 2022
- “China raises coal and gas output to records after prices surge,” bloomberg.com, April 17, 2022
- “China promotes coal burning again,” learningenglish.voanews.com, May 1, 2022
- Joe McDonald, “China promotes coal in setback for efforts to cut emissions,” abcnews.com, April 24, 2022
- Nupur Anand and Sudarshan Varadhan, “India doubles down on coal as heat wave worsens power crisis,” reuters.com, May 6, 2022
- Tom Espiner, “Coal plants asked to stay open longer due to energy supply fears,” finance.yahoo.com, April 28, 2022
Jack Dini — Bio and ArchivesJack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology. He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.
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