China said on Tuesday it would continue to support the construction of coal-fired power plants by its companies in developing countries, justifying them on the grounds that there are no alternatives.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced in September that his country would start reducing its CO2 emissions “before 2030” and achieve “carbon neutrality” in 2060 – that is, absorb as much as it emits.
Environmental activists have noted what appears to them to be a contradiction: China, through its state-owned enterprises, is also the world’s largest investor in coal-fired power stations.
This energy is responsible for around 40% of planetary CO2 emissions.
“Many developing countries do not produce enough electricity. In this context, how to produce it without a coal plant? Are renewable energies sufficient?” Asked Li Gao, head of the climate change department at the ministry. of the environment.
“We cannot simply stop supporting developing countries in their construction of coal-fired power stations. The fight against climate change must also allow inhabitants to have better living conditions,” he pleaded before the Commission. hurry.
Coal-fired power plants “fully meet the concrete needs of these countries” and will be built to “very high standards,” Li said.
China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (around 29% of the global total).
Its companies finance dozens of coal-fired power stations, from Zimbabwe to Indonesia, under the “New Silk Roads”. This initiative launched by Beijing in 2013 aims to build infrastructure abroad and increase Chinese influence there.
Coal represents a little less than 60% of the energy balance in China. But this figure is steadily declining and the new five-year plan (2021-2025) sets at “approximately 20%” the share that non-fossil energies (wind, solar, hydroelectricity) should reach by 2025.
On its soil, China will continue to build coal-fired power stations to ensure a stable electricity supply, but they will be smaller in size and their “lower emissions” than traditional power stations, according to Li Gao.
“There will no longer be large-scale development of coal-fired power plants. That is very clear.”