China: Coal Habits Die Hard

Aaron Foyer
Chinese flag with emissions
Courtesy of Finbold

According to a new study, China did to its climate resolutions what we did to our New Year’s resolutions: ditched them.

What happened: A joint study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and the Global Energy Monitor released the findings of China’s coal plans, and it’s not great. Last year, the country approved 106 gigawatts of new coal plants, enough to power the UK.

  • For context, that is four times higher than all the coal-fired plants China approved last year, and equivalent to two new project approvals every week.

China’s not the only Asian country reverting to coal

Like taking up the Atkins diet only to move to Italy, Pakistan announced earlier this month they were moving away from natural gas and quadrupling the country’s coal-fired power plant capacity.

Why everyone’s moving to coal: Yesterday, energy analyst Doomberg pointed out the Streisand Effect playing out in energy markets.

  • In a nutshell, the Streisand Effect is accidently manifesting an outcome you were trying to avoid by trying to avoid it.

Western nations have been doing everything in their policy powers to ditch coal. Unfortunately, poor policy strategy left Europe energy exposed and having to outbid other countries for limited liquefied natural gas supplies to survive the winter. This left poorer nations energy exposed instead, places like China and Pakistan, who are now reverting back to cheap, reliable coal.

Bottom line: Energy and climate policies have really put the cart before the horse, mostly ignoring energy security in their calculus. The next generation of policies will have to be less like a moment-of-inspiration New Year’s resolution, and more like a well-thought-out career plan to write more effective policies.

+Read the study: China permits two new coal power plants per week in 2022