Record Growth of China's Coal & Energy Consumption

Record Growth of China's Coal & Energy Consumption

New statistics show that in 2021, China's "standard coal equivalent of energy" grew by 5.2% from 2020, the most that it had grown in a decade. Coal use also saw its highest growth since 2011, rising 4.6%. China green-lit the installation of hundreds of collieries last year, increasing the country’s coal capacity by about 420 million tons annually.

South China Morning Post: China increases coal production to ensure winter supplies, easing energy shortage, November 4, 2021.

The New York Times: Chinese Coexist With Coal, November 4, 2021.

Why This Matters

The increase in energy and coal use undermines the progress China has made on decarbonizing its grid. At COP26, the US and China issued a heavily negotiated joint statement on climate change, in which the two countries agreed to act on reducing methane emissions (a major cause of short-term warming) and stopping deforestation, among other environmental concerns. China has also committed to cutting coal use in their 15-year plan and strengthening their National Determined Contributions. Though President Xi Jinping has promised to bring China to net zero by 2060, more must be done to reduce emissions levels and energy use.

Worldwide Increase In Emissions

It's not just China -- coal generation rose by 17% in the US, coupled with a 6.2% increase in emissions, rising to pre-pandemic levels. Germany also continues to permit coal excavation despite promising to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2038.

Globally, demand for oil and gas continues to surge, especially since Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sparked fears of shortages and supply disruptions, according to Reuters. On Tuesday, oil prices hit a seven-year high at $107 a barrel.

For countries to reach their zero-emissions goals, they have to prioritize decarbonizing. "Energy security trumps decarbonization ambitions at least in the short to medium term for China and we expect the country's coal demand to keep rising steadily," Rystad Energy analyst Justin Jose told Reuters.

Sky News: What you need to know about coal, November 4, 2021.

Reuters: 2021 saw jump in greenhouse-gas emissions, says report, January 10, 2022.

Forbes: Oil Prices Hit New Seven-Year High At $106 Per Barrel As Russian Assault On Kyiv Sparks Supply Fears, March 1, 2022.