China announces it will stop funding coal-fired plants overseas

September 23, 2021

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, said that China will still stop building coal-burning power plants overseas.

China is the largest domestic producer of coal in the world and the largest financier of coal-fired plants around the world. The move is seen as a major shift away from the support of coal by China, which is the world’s second-biggest economy.

The news comes amid a broad international effort to reduce coal use and to keep global temperatures from rising at their current pace, which scientists have warned could be disastrous.

“Now all the major public financiers of coal have sent the signal that they are moving away from overseas coal,” Kevin P. Gallagher, a professor of global development policy at Boston University, who has been tracking China’s global energy financing told the New York Times. “China’s announcement could be a step toward them catalyzing green transformations.”

Last year, China built more than three times more new coal power capacity than all other countries in the world combined, equal to “more than one large coal plant per week,” according to estimates from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Finland.

While the rest of the world has been moving away from coal, China’s net construction of coal power capacity within the country grew by 29.8 gigawatts, essentially wiping out the gains of the rest of the world, where net coal power capacity decreased by 17.2 gigawatts, according to the Centre.

The New York Times reported that China’s main sources for financing the construction of coal power plants, the China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China, have poured $51.6 billion dollars into coal power plants around the globe, according to a Boston University tracker.
The largest portion of it, more than $34.4 billion, is in Asia, according to the tracker.

Indonesia is China’s largest coal mining partner, with 21 projects and about $9.3 billion in investments, followed by Vietnam, which has 13 projects and $8.8 billion in investments, according to the tracker.

Pakistan has seven coal power plants funded by China, with $4.5 billion. Other countries with coal power plants funded by China include South Africa, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Russia and Turkey, just to name a few.

Domestically, China produces about 1,200 gigawatts of energy from coal, according to Greenpeace China. The coal power plants it has helped build abroad produce less than 100 gigawatts, the group said.

Xi’s announcement did not address domestic production. And the country’s latest five-year development plan, approved earlier this year, allows for expanded coal-power construction at home for years to come.



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