China Faulted for Stepping Up Coal Consumption, But US & Europe Follow Suit

© Sputnik / CherckasovCoking coal
Coking coal - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.05.2022
Consumption of coal in China has increased since last summer when blackouts hit four industry-heavy provinces. The socialist country has set ambitious goals for cutting carbon emissions but continues to struggle with its antiquated electrical sources, half of which come from coal.
China’s coal consumption has continued to rise in 2022, with imports from its northern neighbor Russia doubling between March and April, according to CNN. As a result, Russia is now China’s second-largest coal supplier, displacing Australia; it still imports the most coal from Indonesia, but produces most of its coal domestically.

According to Chinese news reports, Beijing aims to increase its coal production this year by 7%, or 300 million tons, to ensure a steady supply of electricity after its attempts to cut back last year led to power losses in the northeast and southeast. In addition, revised economic plans due to COVID-19 lockdowns mean Beijing is looking to buttress economic growth by lowering electrical costs for businesses.

China is the world’s largest consumer of coal and the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change, so its change in policy will be widely felt. In 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that according to the socialist country’s economic plans, its carbon dioxide emissions will peak before 2030, then sharply drop off. More recently, Beijing has pledged to end its investment in coal-fired power plants abroad, which it has funded in developing countries like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, that struggle to keep the lights on.

Headlines in the West have cast China’s move as a betrayal of climate change mitigation pledges: “China pivots to boost coal output, putting climate goal at risk,” Nikkei Asia said on Friday, while US National Public Radio (NPR) said, “China promotes coal in setback for efforts to cut emissions.” Last month, the Washington Post said that “With coal surge, China puts energy security and growth before climate,” and on Friday, CNN portrayed China’s imports from Russia as a “friendly gesture to Moscow” amid the West's rejection of Russian energy exports.

However, China isn’t alone in turning to coal for answers: the European Commission said on Friday it would need to increase coal consumption in order to offset its anticipated reductions in Russian gas consumption. According to the Financial Times, the EU will burn 5% more coal than previously expected over the next five to 10 years, but noted that EU officials still claim the bloc will hit its emissions reduction targets by 2030.

The US, too, is ramping up coal production. According to a report earlier this month by the US Energy Information Administration, US coal production is expected to increase by 3% this year as the country struggles with its own boycott of Russian energy exports announced in early March. However, like the EU, the US says its coal use will continue to decline.

Increased coal production is also both cause and consequence of increased coal prices. In October 2021, international coal prices spiked to $280 per metric ton, then after declining somewhat, jumped to an all-time high price of $440 per metric ton after Russia’s special operation in Ukraine began in February 2022. In the US, coal companies have seen their share value explode, too, with one hitting a 986% increase in a single year, according to S&P Global.
To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала