To Achieve Climate Goal, China Must Shut Down 600 Coal-Fired Plants Within 10 Years

Nature

To achieve its target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, China must shut down nearly 600 coal-fired power plants in the next ten years and replace them with renewable energy production, according to a survey.

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According to the research firm TransitionZero, replacing the 364GW of coal production with clean energy will result in a net savings of $1.6 trillion (£1.2 trillion) over the timeframe since wind and solar power is now significantly cheaper than coal.

China’s Coal-Fired Power Plants

EPA Plans to Declare Ameren’s Largest Coal Fire Plant as Air Quality Complaint Criticized by Watchdogs

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China’s coal use, as the world’s largest emitter, is a source of global concern. In an attempt to stimulate economic development after the coronavirus pandemic, the nation has increased proposals for new coal-fired power plants.

Last September, China’s president, Xi Jinping, stunned the world by announcing that the country will reach net zero emissions by 2060 and plateau before 2030.

Related Article: ‘Cut Carbon Emissions,’ 300 Companies Urge President Biden

Coal Usage

A Coal Burning Stove in Rural China

(Photo : Ellison Carter)

Although climate analysts welcome the long-term target, they are worried that allowing emissions to continue to climb over the next ten years would exhaust the global carbon budget.  

“If China struggles on emissions, the rest of the planet will fail on containing serious climate change,” Matthew Gray, co-chief executive of TransitionZero, said. However, the stars are starting to converge in China’s favor in terms of cracking its coal addiction.”

The discovery that replacing coal with green energy could save China money in the short and long term raises the possibility of a decisive shift away from coal in the coming years.

Climate Goals

Wind Turbines in Ningbo, China

(Photo : Erping Sun)

“This reveals that not only can China achieve its climate targets, but that the nation and its leaders can intensify them rapidly,” said Al Gore, who wrote a foreword to the TransitionZero report. A change from coal to renewable energy presents an economic incentive, demonstrating that climate change and economic development are inextricably linked.”

China is planning to send a new climate plan known as a nationally defined contribution, or NDC, to the United Nations. Both countries are required to have such preparations under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and they will be a big part of Cop26, the crucial UK climate talks in Glasgow this November.

International Coordination

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has encouraged China to step away from coal as soon as possible. Still, the International Energy Agency has cautioned that China’s coal demand is rebounding rapidly after the Covid-19 shock.

Since coal is “deeply rooted” in China’s economy and culture, Gray believes that transitioning away from it would be politically challenging. Coal is also used to power a large amount of infrastructure, including railways that transport coal from mines throughout the country and steel and cement plants.

Benefits of the Transition

Effects of long-term exposure to air pollution

(Photo : Unsplash/CDC)
According to World Health Organization, people exposed to unhealthy air can develop complications in their respiratory system, and are more susceptible in getting pneumonia, asthma, or lung cancer.

According to Gray, the new study did not go into great detail about employment, but a shift from coal to renewable energy in China is expected to produce as many, if not more, jobs as those lost in conventional coal industries. “Moving to net-zero would provide a lot of jobs,” he added.

Reducing China’s dependence on coal would have several health advantages, such as reducing air emissions, which would help alleviate looming water shortages in central Chinese areas, according to Gray. In progressively water-stressed countries, coal-fired power plants need massive amounts of water.

Also Read: Chinese Dust Storm Turns Sun Blue in the Beijing Skies

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