1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
A woman wears a face mask near a coal power plant in Shenyang
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Mark

China's coal push imperils climate goals

March 28, 2019

Beijing had pledged to scale back its coal industry, but a new report says the Chinese government has quietly restarted construction of coal-fired power plants. The report also found an increase in coal consumption.


A joint report by environmental groups Global Energy Monitor, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club has warned China's increased coal use and a proposal to boost capacity could endanger global climate change goals.

Beijing imposed measures in 2012 and 2013 to slow the coal industry's growth. Chief among them were the tightening of credit, caps on production and the indefinite suspension of dozens of coal plants under construction.

But recent satellite images show that China has "quietly resumed" construction on dozens of previously shelved coal-fired power plants, researchers said.

Read more: Asia faces tough contradictions in dealing with climate change

China had also vowed to cap coal consumption nationally, but overall, researchers found that coal-fired generation has increased, particularly from new "coal bases" in the nation's northwest.

"Another coal power construction spree would be near impossible to reconcile with emission reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts of global warming," said Lauri Myllyvirta, analyst with Greenpeace's Global Air Pollution Unit.

Additionally, the Chinese government has also continued to finance the construction of more than a quarter of the new coal-fired plants abroad.

Read more: Climate change action in China is 'about science and not politics'

Global environmental threat

Under the 2015 Paris agreement, nations had pledged to cap the rise in global temperatures to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Coal is the most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels, and scientists have warned that the use of primary energy from coal would need to be virtually phased out by mid-century to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Read more: 2°C: 'We have a 5 percent chance of success'

The number of newly completed coal projects worldwide fell 20 percent in 2018, and plant retirements continued at a record pace, the study said. But global demand for coal increased in 2018 by 0.7 percent, the International Energy Agency reported earlier this week.

Almost all of that growth came from Asia and especially China, where coal power generation of electricity rose by more than 5 percent.

jcg/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section Related topics
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Reichsbürger protest in front of the Brandenburg Gate

How dangerous are Germany's far-right Reichsbürger?

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage