In recent months, emotional eco-activist Greta Thunberg who has become synonymous with the global anti-
global warming climate change movement has made consistent appeals at the developed world, demanding an end to its evil, polluting ways. She even went so far as to sue some of the bigger carbon polluters in the world — Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey — for violating her rights as a child by failing to adequately reduce emissions.
And yet one nation has consistently escaped her steely gaze: China.
Which is unfortunate, because whereas many of the nations that have provoked Greta's ire in the past have made concerted efforts to reduce their emissions, it is the world's biggest polluter, China, that has curiously evaded her anger.
Hopefully that is about to change because as the FT reports, China is set to add an army of new coal-fired power plants equivalent to the EU’s entire capacity, as the world’s biggest energy consumer ignores global pressure to rein in carbon emissions in its bid to boost a slowing economy.
Across China, a whopping 148GW of heavily-polluting, coal-fired plants are either being built or are about to begin construction, according to a report from Global Energy Monitor, a non-profit group that monitors coal stations. Putting that number in context, the current capacity of the entire EU coal fleet is 149GW, or the same as what China is about to add.
What's worse, and what has paradoxically not been noted by Greta yet in her global crusade against pollution so far, is that while the rest of the world has been largely reducing coal-powered capacity over the past two years, China is building so much coal power that it more than offsets the decline elsewhere. Ted Nace, head of Global Energy Monitor, said the new coal plants would have a significant impact on China’s already-increasing carbon emissions.
"What is being built in China is single-handedly turning what would be the beginning of the decline of coal, into the continued growth of coal," he said, adding that China was "swamping" global progress in bringing down emissions.
Back in 2016, concerns over air pollution and over-investment in coal prompted China to suspend construction of hundreds of coal stations. But since then, much of the construction has restarted, as Beijing seeks to stimulate an economy growing at its slowest pace since the early 1990s.
And even as pressure has been growing on China, the world’s largest emitter, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which have been creeping up since 2016, and hit a record high last year, not only is Beijing oblivious to the protests of global environmentalists, it is about to unleash a tidal wave of global pollution the likes of which have never been seen before.
Ironically, while Trump has gotten much criticism in recent years for exiting the Paris climate accord, China has pledged to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 as part of the Paris climate agreement. And yet, with a decade left until this deadline, China is doing just the opposite, preparing to add "another Europe" in total emissions.
And while the report showed that the pace of new construction starts of Chinese coal stations rose 5% in the first half of 2019 compared to a year ago, it is what is coming down the pipeline that is remarkable: about 121GW of coal power is actively under construction in China. This figure still dwarfs the pace of new construction elsewhere.
Last year China’s net additions to its coal fleet were 25.5GW, while the rest of the world saw a net decline of 2.8GW as more plants were closed than were built.
The renewed push into coal has been driven by Chinese energy companies desperate to gain market share and by local governments who view coal plants as a source of jobs and investment. While electricity demand in China rose 8.5% last year, the current grid is already oversupplied and coal stations are utilised only about half the time.
In other words, instead of building ghost cities which it did for much of the early years of the decade, China has since moved on to building "ghost coal power plants."
"The utilisation of coal-fired power plants will reach a record low this year, so there is no justification to build these coal plants," said Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, a think-tank. “But that is not the logic that investment follows in China . . . There is little regard for the long-term economics of the investments that are being made."
Lauri is correct, which is why we are certain that it is only a matter of time before the patron saint of virtue signaling environmentalists everywhere will have some very harsh words about China in the next few hours. Right Greta?