China needs to immediately stop building new coal power plants and double wind and solar installations to put itself on a path to meet its 2060 carbon neutrality pledge, climate researchers said in a new report.
China’s coal power fleet, already more than 1,000 gigawatts strong, is underutilized and already includes dozens of redundant plants, researchers from Draworld Environment Research Center and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said in the report.
The country should aim to whittle its coal fleet down to about 680 gigawatts by 2030, instead of plans by some in the industry to expand it to about 1,300 gigawatts.
With solar and wind power quickly becoming as cheap or cheaper than coal, such an building spree could result in more than 2 trillion yuan ($304 billion) in stranded assets, said Zhang Shuwei, Draworld’s chief economist and the report’s lead author.
“A further expansion of the coal-fired power industry would greatly complicate this challenge, requiring a cliff-fall of coal power generation after 2030,” Zhang said.
The report comes two months after President Xi Jinping shocked the world by announcing in a United Nations speech that China will be carbon neutral by 2060, although Beijing has yet to lay out detailed steps on how the world’s biggest polluter will get there.
Draworld and CREA researchers said that to meet the goal, China needs to ban new coal plants immediately and also double the installed capacity of new wind and solar power to at least 100 gigawatts annually.
“There is no leeway to construct new long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure such as coal power, which would need premature retirement to meet China’s vision to achieve net-zero emissions,” the researchers said in the report.
(By Dan Murtaugh and Karoline Kan)