Chinese coal mine approvals rise despite climate targets

Jack Unwin 6 August 2019 (Last Updated August 6th, 2019 16:23)

Chinese Government documents have shown that the number of approvals for new coal mines has increased despite pledges by the country to update and toughen its climate change targets.

Chinese coal mine approvals rise despite climate targets
China has significantly increased approvals for new coal production in 2019. Credit: Tom A La Rue.

Chinese Government documents have shown that the number of approvals for new coal mines has increased despite pledges by the country to update and toughen its climate change targets.

According to the documents produced by China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), 141 million tonnes of new coal production capacity was authorised for the period January to June 2019, compared to 25 million tonnes for the whole of 2018. In total, China’s coal output has risen by 2.6% in the first six months of 2019 to 1.76 billion tonnes.

New coal mines have been authorised in the regions of Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Shanxi and Shaanxi, alongside the expansion of existing coal mines. Whilst coal production is increasing in these regions, production will cease in the Beijing area by 2020 due to the city being prone to smog pollution.

China has reduced coal as part of its energy mix from 68.5% in 2012 to 59% in 2018, whilst aiming to increase its share of non-fossils from 14.3% to 15% by 2020 and 20% by 2030.

Research from the China State Grid Corporation predicted that the country’s total coal production would peak between 1,230 and 1,350GW, which means that another 200-300GW would eventually be installed.

China’s climate pledges

China has made strong statements on climate change in recent years. In July 2019 the country stated that it would “update” the pledges made in the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA) in 2015 to reflect the “highest possible ambition.” It is also on course to meet its climate targets set in its 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution.

However according to research organisation Climate Action Tracker (CAT) China’s actions and policies are highly insufficient to meet the challenge of holding warming below even two degrees, nevermind PCA’s 1.5 degree limit.

As the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter, CAT predict that China’s emissions will rise until at least 2030, at which point it is likely to be too late to curb the country’s impact on climate change.