President Xi Jinping’s promise to end China’s financing of overseas coal-fired power plants was broadly welcomed by environmentalists, but the move should be seen as a first step rather than a major effort to mitigate climate change.
The Chinese leader used an address at the United Nations to state his country, the largest emitter of gases associated with climate change, would halt financing of coal-fired projects and boost help to developing countries to switch to cleaner renewable energy.
Given China is the largest financier of such projects, and an earlier commitment from Japan and South Korea to exit coal power projects, the move does call into question the viability of a large chunk of the world’s planned coal-fired plants.
Global Energy Monitor (GEM), a U.S.-based group that tracks coal power globally, told Reuters that 44 coal plants slated for an estimated $50 billion in Chinese financing could be impacted by the decision.
The pro-renewables think tank, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), said a review of coal power proposals in countries with significant project pipelines indicates 56% of the total capacity is being supported by China.