BEIJING, CHINA — A top EU climate official said Monday there is a “contradiction” between China’s ambitious goals to combat global warming and its continued building of coal-fired power plants.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said in Beijing he was “convinced that China is willing to go in the right direction”.
“But at the same time, it’s also true that… more coal-fired power plants are opened,” Timmermans said in a speech at Tsinghua University.
“And that seems to be in contradiction.”
China is also the biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases driving climate change, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), and its emissions pledges are seen as essential to keeping global temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius.
However, China relied on coal for nearly 60 per cent of its electricity last year.
Greenpeace said in April that China has approved a major surge in coal power so far this year, accusing it of prioritising energy supply over its pledge to reduce emissions from fossil fuels.
The jump in approvals for coal-fired power plants has added to concerns that China will backtrack on its goals to peak emissions between 2026 and 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2060.
Timmermans’ comments come on the heels of record-setting heatwaves and flooding across China in recent weeks that have underscored the potential impacts of continued upticks in global temperatures.
He also warned of the consequences of not restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, saying this would lead to a “significant and widespread increase in adverse impacts of climate change, including in extreme weather events”.
China’s top climate centre announced at the weekend that 2023 has seen a record number of high-temperature days over a six-month period.
Beijing logged its hottest June day ever recorded, the national weather service said last month, as swaths of northern China sweltered in 40-degree heat.
Heavy sustained rainfall in central and southern China has also led to severe flooding in recent days, with more than 14,000 people forced to evacuate in Hunan Province, according to state news agency Xinhua.
The United Nations has warned it is near-certain that 2023-2027 will be the warmest five-year period ever recorded, as greenhouse gasses and the El Nino climate phenomenon combine to send temperatures soaring.
Beijing has repeatedly urged developed nations in recent years to honour their climate finance pledges.
China has rejected the idea that it should no longer be considered a developing country, even though it is now the world’s second-biggest economy.