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China Doubles Down on a Slower Coal Exit After COP26 Spat

A bucket wheel by a coal pile at the Phola coal processing plant in Ogies, South Africa, on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Envoys from some of the world’s richest nations met with South African cabinet ministers to discuss a climate deal that could channel almost $5 billion toward ending the country’s dependence on coal. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

China extended its defence of coal’s future after diluting demands for action at the COP26 climate summit, insisting a transition away from the dirtiest fossil fuel must be gradual.

“In many developing countries, not everyone has access to electricity and energy supply is not adequate,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing Monday in Beijing. “Before asking all countries to stop using coal, consideration should be given to the energy shortfall in these countries.”

Both China and India, the biggest coal-consuming nations, have been ramping up output from mines in recent weeks to ease an autumn energy crisis that caused widespread power shortages and disrupted industrial activity.

See also: At 14 Million Tons a Day, India and China Still Addicted to Coal

India and China’s intervention at the Glasgow talks saw a call to accelerate the “phase-out” of unabated coal power downgraded to a pledge to “phase-down” use of the fuel. COP26 President Alok Sharma, who apologized to the conference over the revisions, told the BBC the two nations will need to justify their actions to countries that are most vulnerable to climate change.

Efforts to “reduce the proportion of coal consumption is an incremental process,” that’ll require the developed world to both end use of the fuel earlier than developing nations and to offer those countries funding and technology to make the transition, Zhao said.

China attaches “high importance” to the energy transition, and has recently set out major steps including a target to reduce coal consumption from 2026 and to end the building of overseas power projects that use the fuel, he said.


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