Despite considerable investment in renewable energy sources, China generates 53 percent of the world’s total coal-fired power in 2020, according to a study.
While developed countries have been trying to increase the share of renewable energy for their needs, Chinese coal-fired energy generation increased by 1.7 percent, or 77 terawatt-hours, in 2020, according to Ember, the London-based energy and climate research group.
China increased its share of the world’s total coal-fired power in 2020 by reaching 53 percent of total output, from 44 percent in 2015. China slashed the share of coal in total energy consumption from around 70 percent a decade ago to 56.8 percent last year. But absolute generation volumes rose 19 percent over the 2016-2020 period, Ember calculated.
China also added a record 71.7 gigawatts (GW) of wind and 48.2 GW of solar power last year.
However, “China’s strong growth of electricity demand has necessitated the expansion of both renewable and non-renewable generation,” the report added.
Despite climate pledges and building hundreds of renewable energy plants, it was the only G20 nation to see a significant jump in coal-fired generation, the report said.
China has also promised to reduce its dependence on coal and bring emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases to a peak before 2030, and to then subsequently become “carbon neutral” by 2060.
“China is like a big ship, and it takes time to turn in another direction,” said Muyi Yang, senior analyst with Ember and one of the report’s authors.
“China needs to drive electricity consumption to be more efficient, to further promote ‘high-quality’ economic growth, and to deepen electricity pricing reform, aimed at making electricity prices more cost-reflective,” Yang also suggested.
Before 2006, the United States had the highest carbon footprint, however China has overtaken it and boasts the most CO2 emissions produced from fossil fuels and cement countries, according to OurWorldinData.
Over the last decade, the US and EU countries, which were previously the highest carbon emissions generators, have been steadily decreasing their share of CO2 emissions thanks to an investment in renewable sources.
However, individuals living in western countries still lead in individual carbon footprints.
American and European individual carbon footprints
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) which are generated by human actions.
The United States has one of the highest carbon footprints per person in the world with 16 tons per capita.
Despite minor decreases in recent years, “some populous countries with some of the highest per capita emissions – and therefore high total emissions – are the United States, Australia, and Canada,” according to OurWorldinData.
“Australia has an average per capita footprint of 17 tonnes, followed by the US at 16.2 tonnes, and Canada at 15.6 tonnes,” that is more than three times higher than the global average, which was 4.8 tonnes per person in 2017.
There is a strong relationship between income and per capita CO2 emissions - countries with high living standards have high carbon footprints.
When it comes to China, the average footprint is about seven tonnes per capita. The average carbon footprint for European citizens varies between 4-9 tonnes per person.