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Rich nations stick to coal phase-out plans as China builds new projects

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Excavator loads coal to a train in Pingdingshan, Henan province, China November 4, 2021. Picture taken November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song//File Photo

Rich nations have stuck to pledges to phase-out coal power despite the war in Ukraine to help reach their climate targets but expansion of China’s coal fleet risks counteracting the impact of the closures, a report said on Tuesday.

Countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) policy forum and the European Union are on track to close more than 75% of their coal power capacity from 2010 to 2030, the report by the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) said.

Greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal are the single biggest contributor to climate change and weaning the world off coal is considered vital to achieving global climate targets.

While some countries such as Britain and Germany have delayed the closure of coal plants this winter due to the war in Ukraine and concerns over Russian energy supply, overall phase-out dates remained intact, according to the report released to coincide with the COP27 climate summit of world leaders in Egypt.

“Instead, governments are increasing their efforts to invest in renewables and increase energy efficiency, in order to accelerate the transition away from power generation fuelled by both coal and gas,” said the PPCA, an international campaign aimed at phasing out the fuel.

China has pledged to bring the country’s carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. On Monday, China said it did not oppose mentioning 1.5 degrees Celsius as a goal for limiting global warming.

China’s climate envoy, Xei Zhenhua said last week at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt the country would need to retain some coal plants to help maintain the stability of its power grid.

There are still plans for almost 300 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power capacity globally with around two-thirds of this, or 197 GW slated to be built in China, the report showed.

“Accelerated retirements within the OECD and the collapse in the scale of new project proposals in the rest of the world have been counteracted by the ongoing expansion of the coal fleet in China,” the report said.

The PPCA said many of these proposed projects may eventually be cancelled.

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