China's climate solution – Panorama

The news, disclosed with great media hype, is that for the first time 30% of global electricity demand has been met by renewable sources thanks to the growth of solar and wind energy. The narrative of the prophets of the sun and the wind explains that climate neutrality is within our reach: we just need to try a little harder.

Exactly how much more?

The devil hides in the details and if we do two simple calculations we discover that fossil fuels still maintain a share of over 80% of total primary energy consumption. Electricity represents approximately 20% of total energy consumption and if we do two more simple calculations we discover that, in reality, the sun and the wind only provide us with 5% of primary energy.

Numerically the road doesn't seem so easy..

Robbins argues that “It's not what you look at that matters… It's what you see” and today, what we see is conveyed by the influence of the climate industry which places people in front of an enormous technocratic propaganda with which they can deal in a limited way: the threshold of necessary skills is too high. The strategy is to push the common belief that it is necessary “do quickly” and that the technologies to solve the climate crisis are already ready, within our reach.

The US presidential climate envoy to COP28, John Kerry, denounced the “demagogy“which impedes progress towards net zero emissions and putsthe whole world at risk” of planetary destruction. Kerry is an exponent of the climate change industry: helping develop investment opportunities, promoting climate litigation and shaping the court of public opinion.

His personal relationship with China's climate envoy Xie Zhenhua was instrumental in facilitating negotiations at COP28 where Xie reaffirmed China's commitment to peak carbon emissions before 2030. But in January the government China announced Xie's resignation as China's special climate envoy and that his place would be taken by Liu Zhenmin, former vice minister of Foreign Affairs.

The past year has seen China increase its solar and wind energy installations to record levels while announcing new developments in its electricity grid's electrochemical storage (batteries) capacity.

Yet data today shows that China is well short of its goal of reducing energy intensity by 13.5% and carbon intensity by 18% between 2021 and 2025. This data, i.e. the measure of how much energy is consumed and how much carbon dioxide is emitted per unit of economic growth are fundamental to understanding the concreteness of the commitment to reach peak emissions by 2030.

But China, again last year, reached another record: it extracted 4.7 billion tons of coal, an increase of 3.4% compared to the previous 12 months, according to data from the China National Coal Association and net coal imports increased 63% to 470 million tons.

And if you dig deeper into Beijing's planning you will find that, based on the decisions made by the CPC Central Committee, in April, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Administration for energy (NEA), the “Implementation opinions on the establishment of a coal capacity reserve system“.

A system of coal production reserves is established to safeguard fuel supplies to power plants. The Commission's objective is to achieve an annual production reserve of 300 million tonnes of coal, also by 2030, to consolidate coal's role as “basic guarantee in energy supply“.

Once the system is up and running, about a quarter of the new mines will become part of it and, if necessary, will have to be prepared for immediate increases in production. The coal extracted from these plants will be sold under government control.

More than “an exit from coal” it seems to be a system with similar purposes to the one developed in Germany to support the intermittency of renewables and based on Russian gas. With the not negligible difference that Beijing has learned from that lesson, and instead of developing the “Power of Siberia 2” gas pipeline, it bases its energy security on a fuel, coal, whose supplies it controls.

Some naive people might have thought that the Middle Empire, given its dominant role in the production of batteries, would base its energy security on the latter: coal is the main source of energy in China and for the CCP it plays the role of “ballast stone” And “stabilizer” in energy supply.

Last year also reversed the trend of downsizing the global fleet of coal-fired power plants. For the first time since 2019, driven by China, Indonesia and India, coal-fired electricity production capacity has increased despite the continued divestment of power plants by Western countries.

So while around half of new solar and wind power capacity globally has been built by China, the Middle Empire has also commissioned two-thirds of coal-fired power generation capacity.

It is no coincidence that President Xi Jinping announced, in 2021, that to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2060, the country would “gradually reduced” the use of coal: not that he would no longer use it.

If we analyze the projection, i.e. the red line, of the exit from coal (phase-out) of China, India and the USA in the graphs of the image below, it is immediate to observe how what actually happens in China, i.e. the blue line, is profoundly different from the USA and is much more similar to India whose exit from coal is in fact sine die.

Elaboration on SEI, Climate Analytics, E3G, IISD, and UNEP data. (2023). The Production Gap: Phasing down or phasing up? Top fossil fuel producers plan even more extraction despite climate promises. Stockholm Environment Institute, Climate Analytics, E3G, International Institute for Sustainable Development and United Nations Environment Programme.

The reality represents how China puts its attention to energy security before climate change objectives while, according to Beijing, energy produced from coal can best play a supporting and regulatory role to promote the development of green and low-emission transformation of carbon energy: China's climate solution… for the West.