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China scoffs at global climate goals, announces plans for more coal-fired plants, oil and gas exploration

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China’s Communist government is mocking global climate change goals being pursued by dozens of other countries as officials announced plans to build several new coal-fired power plants while also pursuing new oil and gas exploration to meet its ever-increasing appetite for energy.

The announcement from China’s National Energy Commission on Tuesday comes just a few weeks before the start of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders are likely to approve dramatic cuts on emissions. Also, the announcement is being seen as a major setback in the UK, where leaders plan a push to phase out coal completely.

The commission said China’s goal is “to build advanced coal-fired power plants” while bolstering domestic oil and gas production after a series of power outages last week.

Li Keqiane, China’s prime minister and No. 2 leader behind President Xi Jinping, made the announcement after a meeting of the commission. He went on to suggest that a previous agreement by Beijing to cap China’s total emissions by 2030, which is already behind schedule compared to other countries, could also be disregarded.

“We have adequate tools in our toolbox to cope with such challenges, including the energy and electricity supply strains,” he said Thursday, according to the South China Morning Post.

The announcement also comes as a global energy crisis worsens in the post-COVID-19 environment, with economies ramping back up. The Chinese government has ordered operators of its 682 coal mines to boost annual output to 55.3 million tons as coal imports skyrocketed last month by 76 percent, the Daily Mail reported.

Other countries in the region are following suit; neighboring India has ordered coal mines in that country to increase production as well amid growing blackouts and power shortages. Imports of coal to India have risen as well.

China’s decision to double down on coal comes as the country is already the world’s biggest polluter, with 50 percent of all energy production coming from coal, considered to worst of the fossil fuels.

What’s more, according to industry experts and analysts, coal consumption doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon, and certainly not by 2030, a UN climate emissions objective. The Daily Mail quoted July Ndlovu, the manager of a South African coal mine who said he expects consumption to continue increasing at least for the next 20 years.

China has previously committed to reducing pollutants after hitting peak emissions in 2030, with the objective of becoming carbon-neutral by 2060. But Li has hinted those goals may go by the wayside, saying that Beijing will build more coal-fired plants to develop the “capacity for energy self-supply” on the road to creating a “modern energy system.”

“Energy security should be the premise on which a modern energy system is built and the capacity for energy self-supply should be enhanced,” he said, according to The Guardian.

“Given the predominant place of coal in the country’s energy and resource endowment, it is important to optimise the layout for the coal production capacity, build advanced coal-fired power plants as appropriate in line with development needs, and continue to phase out outdated coal plants in an orderly fashion,” he continued, adding: “Domestic oil and gas exploration will be intensified.”

Jon Dougherty

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