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Building back blacker, China drives rise in coal-fired power plants

The Daily Telegraph

The number of coal-fired power stations granted approval globally has risen for the first time since 2015 – with China making up two thirds of all plans for the heavily polluting plants.

Despite international pledges to drastically cut carbon emissions, 20GW of coal-fired power plants were approved for investment last year, up from around 18GW in 2019. China alone approved 13GW of coal-fired plants, a 45pc increase on 2019 levels.

Chinese authorities have lowered restrictions on building new plants in a drive to reboot the country’s post-pandemic economy. Despite last year’s rise, coal power plant investment approvals are still down 80pc over the latest five years, with countries trying to phase out the fuel in the rush to cut carbon emissions.

Revealing the trend in its World Energy Investment report published today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says: “This is a reminder that energy transitions do not follow a simple story line.”

China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, said last year it plans to cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2060, expecting them to peak by 2030. 

The UK has largely phased out coal-fired power plants. In 2019, coal accounted for 2.8pc of total UK energy, including power generation and blast-furnaces for steel making.

Cambodia, Indonesia and Pakistan also approved almost 5GW of new coal-fired power plants last year, although the 1GW approved by India was the lowest it had approved in a decade.

Overall, the IEA warns that not enough cash is being ploughed into clean energy products as the world tries to keep global warming in check, even with a surge in post-pandemic spending. It predicts that global energy spending will rebound by nearly 10pc during 2021 to $1.9 trillion (£1.3 trillion), with more investment pouring into the power sector than into oil and gas for the sixth year in a row.

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