The use of coal for electricity, cement, steel, and other purposes increased in 2022, despite global vows to phase out the fuel, which is the leading emitter of greenhouse gases in the climate, according to a report released Wednesday.
According to a research by Global Energy Monitor, an organization that studies a range of energy projects throughout the world, the coal fleet increased by 19.5 gigatonnes last year, enough to power almost 15 million households, with nearly all newly commissioned coal projects in China.
This 1% increase comes at a time when the world needs to retire its coal fleet four and a half times faster in order to fulfill climate goals, according to the report. Countries throughout the world committed in 2021 to reduce their use of coal to help reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. (2.7 Fahrenheit).
“The more new coal projects that come online, the steeper the cuts and commitments must be in the future,” said Flora Champenois, lead author of the research and project manager for GEM’s Global Coal Plant Tracker.
14 countries installed new coal plants, while eight countries announced new coal projects. Only China, India, Indonesia, Turkey, and Zimbabwe installed new coal plants while also announcing new projects. China was responsible for 92% of all new coal project announcements.
China contributed 26.8 gigatonnes of new coal power capacity to its systems, while India added roughly 3.5 gigatonnes. China also approved roughly 100 gigatonnes of new coal power projects, with building expected to begin this year.
However, “the long term trajectory remains toward clean energy,” according to Shantanu Srivastava, an energy economist with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in New Delhi. According to Srivastava, the epidemic and the war in Ukraine briefly led some countries to rely on fossil fuels.
In Europe, where the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused a race for other energy supplies and droughts suffocated hydropower, coal use increased relatively little.
Others choose the opposite path. There were major shutdowns in the United States, with 13.5 gigatonnes of coal power decommissioned. It is one of 17 countries that have shut down factories in the last year.
Coal accounts for almost one-third of global energy installation, with nearly 2,500 plants worldwide. The remainder is made up of other fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy.
According to the International Energy Agency, in order to reach climate objectives set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, coal facilities in developed countries must be decommissioned by 2030 and coal plants in poor countries must be shut down by 2040. This indicates that around 117 gigatonnes of coal must be retired per year, yet only 26 gigatonnes were removed in 2022.
“At this rate, the transition away from existing and new coal is not occurring quickly enough to avoid climate chaos,” Champenois warned.
Srivastava said that it is critical to ensure that the millions of people employed in coal and other filthy industries are not left behind in the transition to renewable energy, though this becomes more challenging as more coal projects are locked in.
“Every day that we delay a transition to clean energy,” Srivastava explained, “we not only make it more difficult to achieve climate goals, but we also make the transition more expensive.”