SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China needs to halve carbon dioxide emissions from its coal-fired power plants by the end of the decade if it is to remain on course to become carbon neutral by 2060, according to research published on Thursday.
To half emissions, the world’s biggest producer of climate-warming greenhouse gas must shut, retrofit or put into reserve capacity as much as 364 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power by 2030 – around a third of its current total, according to London-based climate data provider TransitionZero.
The research used satellite imagery and machine learning to estimate carbon emissions from China’s coal-fired plants.
It also estimated that China could save $1.6 trillion by replacing the majority of its coal-fired power plants with clean alternatives.
“Independent of climate considerations, our analysis finds China could save money, reduce stranded assets and improve its international reputation by replacing coal plants with zero-carbon alternatives,” said Matthew Gray, co-chief executive of TransitionZero.
Experts and campaigners have said that China should immediately halt all new coal plant approvals in order to meet climate goals.
However, the country said in its 2021-2025 five-year plan published in March that it would continue to promote the “clean and efficient use of coal”.
According to research published by the Global Energy Monitor and other energy think tanks last week, a recent boom in coal-fired power construction in China is offsetting the cuts made in the rest of the world.
China completed 38.4 GW of new capacity in 2020, higher than the 37.8 GW of coal plants that were retired globally. It commissioned 76% of the world’s new coal plants last year, up from 64% in 2019, according to a report by TransitionZero.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Himani Sarkar)