China must stop building new coal power plants and ramp up its wind and solar capacity if it wants to become carbon neutral by 2060, researchers said recently. 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.
The research organisation called for the Chinese government to shut down all new coal-fired power plants built from 2020 and double the growth of wind and solar power in the next decade. Without proper policy intervention to retire these surplus plants early and halt the construction of new ones, the researchers claimed the level of carbon dioxide emitted by China would show almost no reduction compared to this year’s level. President Xi Jinping promised in September that China would bring climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions to a peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality 30 years later, committing the country to an accelerated transition to renewable energy.
“As long as coal consumption continues to drop significantly, peaking carbon emissions before 2030 will be a relatively achievable goal,” Yuan Jiahai, Professor at North China Electric Power University, said in the report. One way to reach this target, the report says, is to set a high carbon price in the carbon trading market, in turn incentivising the carbon-emitters to reduce coal-fired power generation.
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.