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EU climate chief concerned over coal industry expansion in China

BEIJING (AP) – The European Union’s (EU) climate chief on Monday expressed concern over the expansion of China’s coal industry, with the building of new coal-fired plants.

At a conference in Beijing, Frans Timmermans said that while China is forging ahead with plans to expand its use of renewable resources such as wind and solar energy, the country has also been constructing an ever-growing number of coal-fired plants in the past few years.

“And that seems to be in a contradiction and it is in contradiction,” said Timmermans. “But at the same time, I do understand the anxiety caused by potential blackouts.”

China is the world’s biggest and fastest-growing producer of renewable energy. It aims to turn one-third of its total power supply renewable by 2025.

As more cities are experiencing sweltering temperatures this summer, the country may face power shortages and challenges to electricity grids, similar to what happened last year. At the same time, water shortages have led to reductions in hydropower generation.

Smoke billows from chimneys of the cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant in Dadong, Shanxi province, China. PHOTO: AP

China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua attended the conference and presented a commemorative plate to Timmermans, who is on a two-day visit to China for the EU-China High-level Environment and Climate Dialogue.

Official plans called for boosting coal production capacity by 300 million tonnes last year, at least the third consecutive year of growth.

Although China is one of the biggest investors in wind and solar, anxious leaders called for more coal-fired power after economic growth plunged and shortages caused blackouts and factory shutdowns.

The war in Ukraine added to the anxiety that foreign oil and coal supplies might be disrupted.

China is the top producer and consumer of coal. Global trends hinge on what Beijing does.

The Communist Party has rejected binding emissions commitments, citing its economic development needs.

China has said carbon emissions will peak by 2030 and the country will become carbon neutral by 2060 by planting trees and through other offsets.

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