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Forget Paris: China Approves 210 New Coal Power Plants

Clifford Coonan, Reuters

China issued 210 licences for new coal-fired power plants last year despite the central government repeatedly sounding the alarm on overcapacity, Greenpeace said.

Coal-fired power plants are generally blamed as one of the chief reasons for China’s dire pollution problems. However, power companies are investing in these facilities because so much of the economy is built on investment in infrastructure such as power plants.

According to Greenpeace projections, the yearly CO2 emissions from the 210 projects would be equal to 8 per cent of China’s current emissions, or to the total energy-related emissions of Argentina and Brazil.

The rate at which coal-fired power plants are being approved by provincial governments was dramatically higher than in 2014.

“Warnings about China’s overcapacity crisis are coming in left, right and centre, and yet the rate at which new coal power plants are being approved is increasing,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace’s senior global campaigner on coal.

China’s coal output fell in 2014 after 15 years of consecutive growth, but coal still makes up 66 per cent of the country’s energy consumption. This week, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security announced cuts of nearly 2 million jobs in steel production and coal mining.

“These plants do nothing but fuel the overcapacity crisis and add huge debt burdens. It is a trend which must be halted immediately,” said Mr Myllyvirta.

China’s environmental record remains woeful, although there have been some improvements.

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