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After Paris: China’s New Coal Boom In Asia

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Michael Forsythe, The New York Times

Coal-fueled power plants account for 68 percent of the electrical generation capacity built by China in the rest of Asia, and that figure is set to rise.

Altogether, Chinese engineering firms have built or signed contracts to build 14 coal-fired plants along the Vietnamese coast over the past five years, most of them with the help of loans from the government’s China Export-Import Bank.

The building spree here is hardly unique. Since 2010, Chinese state enterprises have finished, begun building or formally announced plans to build at least 92 coal-fired power plants in 27 countries, according to a review of public documents by The New York Times.

At the Paris climate conference, China has won praise for pledging to stop the growth of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, largely by reducing its use of coal. But these reductions are being undercut as Chinese state-owned companies, backed by state loans, build coal-fired power plants across the developing world despite concerns about global warming and air pollution.

Once complete, the 92 projects will have a combined capacity of 107 gigawatts, more than enough to completely offset the planned closing of coal-fired plants in the United States through 2020. The expansion is the equivalent of increasing China’s own coal-fired electricity output — already more than twice as much as any other country’s — by more than 10 percent.

The overseas push comes as China’s state engineering firms are struggling with declining profits and a glut of coal-fired power plants at home, where economic growth is slowing. Beijing has encouraged state firms to “go out” and seek projects abroad to stay in business, increase demand for Chinese steel and bind the Chinese economy more closely with those of its neighbors. […]

Coal-fueled plants account for 68 percent of the electrical generation capacity built by China in the rest of Asia, and that figure is set to rise, according to a recent paper that Phillip Hannam, a scholar at the Princeton Environmental Institute, helped write. By contrast, coal-fueled plants made up only 32 percent of the operating capacity built by other nations without Chinese support.

Chinese firms have also built and financed plants in South America and Africa, and this year Romania approved plans for a Chinese-built plant.

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