The world’s existing fleet of coal-fired plants grew by 19.5GW last year, of which more than half was commissioned in China

The world needs to stop building new plants and close existing ones at almost five times the current rate to meet Paris agreement goals. In order to meet the Paris climate agreement, all coal-fired plants need to be closed by 2040 and no new ones can come online but such is not the case at all. Jillian Ambrose discusses latest developments in an article on the Guardian website.


Phaseout of coal power far too slow to avoid ‘climate chaos’, report finds

The world needs to close coal power plants at almost five times the present rate, as well as stop building new ones, in order to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, according to a report.

Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based NGO, said insufficient progress was being made to avoid “climate chaos” and that plans for a sharp increase in the number of coal-fired plants in China would require even steeper cuts to the rest of the global fleet to meet the world’s climate goals.

In order to meet the Paris climate agreement, all coal-fired plants need to be closed by 2040 and no new ones can come online.

Developed economies are expected to shut their plants a decade earlier than the global phaseout. This will require countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to close 60 gigawatts of coal-power capacity each year until 2030 – about four-and-a-half times the amount recorded last year. Non-OECD countries will need to close 91GW of coal power capacity every year until 2040.

The global survey found that although the total amount of existing and planned coal plant capacity outside China fell last year, the phaseout has slowed compared with previous years.

China is also preparing to drastically increase its usage of coal, with plans to build enough new plants to more than offset the capacity retired across the US and the EU combined last year.

“At this rate, the transition away from existing and new coal isn’t happening fast enough to avoid climate chaos,” said Flora Champenois, the lead author of the report and project manager for Global Energy Monitor’s global coal plant tracker.

“The more new coal projects come online, the steeper the cuts and commitments need to be in the future.”

Overall, the world’s existing fleet grew by 19.5GW last year, of which more than half was commissioned in China. The country also has plans to increase its coal power capacity by a further 126GW – dwarfing reductions in usage made in developing countries.

The US took the global lead in retiring coal power, shutting 13.5GW of capacity last year. In the EU, closures slowed from 14.6GW of capacity in 2021 to 2.2GW in 2022, as the bloc responded to the war in Ukraine driving up the cost of gas-fired power generation.

“Progress in retiring coal power plants in rich countries and cancelling new coal power projects in developing countries, despite the gas crunch that shook global energy markets in 2022, is encouraging,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst for the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, a thinktank.

“Outside of China, the response to the energy crisis was dominated by investment in clean energy. However, that progress urgently needs to be accelerated. China pulled in the opposite direction, sharply increasing planned coal power capacity, showing the need to deploy clean solutions and better enforcement of existing policies that should restrict new coal power projects,” she added.

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