China's coal plants pollute as whole of Spain

China’s abroad coal plants investments pollute as whole of Spain

Carbon dioxide emissions from China-invested power coal plants abroad are now estimated to be 245 million tonnes per year. They roughly pollute the same as annual energy-related CO2 emissions from the whole of Spain or Thailand, shows new research released on Tuesday.

According to the research of Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center (GDPC), Chinese companies and government-run investment banks have now financed a total of 171.6 GW of overseas power generation capacity. It is a total of 648 plants in 92 countries, with 113.5 GW already operational.

Half of it is coal plants and the other half in renewables

Approximately half of that total capacity is related to fossil fuels, and the pipeline of projects. In the case of finishing all those projects, it could add another 100 million tonnes of annual CO2 emissions. These are the results of the GDPC research presented by Cecilia Springer, a researcher at the center.

The research shows that China’s overseas power portfolio still dominates coal and large-scale hydropower. That indicates that China can do more to support green and low-carbon energy in developing countries, particularly wind and solar power.

According to the Boston University study, the majority of China-financed generation capacity in the planning stages will now use low-carbon energy sources. This is good news indicating that a recent pledge to end overseas coal financing has had an effect.

Promises, commitments, and… money

President of China, Xi Jinping, announced last year at the United Nations General Assembly that his country would stop investing in overseas coal-fired power plants. It supposes to count as China’s part of its commitment to combat climate change. The estimation is it will cost $50 billion.

Thus, it resulted in the immediate cancellation of several international projects. Even though some of them remained in a “grey zone” and, according to experts, could still proceed.

According to the report of Helsinki-based think tank, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), published this spring, there are 18 projects with a total capacity of 19.2 GW that are in the mentioned “a gray area”. Their proceeding depends on obtaining the necessary financing and permits.

Coal plant financing abroad stopped for now

According to research made in April, China’s decision to prohibit overseas coal financing has halted 15 power projects in the planning stages with a total capacity of around 12.8 gigatonnes (GW). There is a possibility to stop another 37 GW of capacity still in the pre-construction phase. But, this becomes less likely as the end of the Ukraine war is far from the end.

China is both the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and its largest consumer of coal. It is still building significant amounts of new capacity domestically. Last year 33 GW was in construction. That is the most since 2016.