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Approvals for new coal mines in China surge despite climate pledges

06 August 2019

A study by the Reuters news agency shows that approvals for new coal mine construction in China have surged in 2019. China’s energy regulator gave the go-ahead to build 141 million tonnes of new annual coal production capacity from January to June, compared to 25 million tonnes over the whole of last year.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

Reuters analysis of National Energy Administration (NEA) documents showed the big increase, despite the country’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including the Paris agreement on climate change.

Beijing aims to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its overall energy mix to 15% by the end of next year from around 14.3% currently, and to 20% by 2030. It cut the share of coal to 59% last year, down from 68.5% in 2012.

It has also promised to adopt the “highest possible ambition” when it reviews its climate change pledges next year.

But while smog-prone regions like Hebei and Beijing have already cut coal use and shut hundreds of small mines and power plants, China is still allowing for significant increases in coal production and coal-fired power generation.

Reuters said industry groups still expect coal-fired power capacity to increase over the next few years, with investments in nuclear and renewables still insufficient to cover rising energy demand.

The research unit of the China State Grid Corporation last month forecast that total coal-fired capacity would peak at 1,230-1,350 gigawatts (GW), which would mean an increase of about 200-300 GW.

A study published earlier this year also suggested China’s targets would allow the construction of another 290 GW of coal-fired capacity in the coming years. 


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