China’s Coal Output Hits Multi-Year High as Climate Conference Continues

Chinese street vendors and customers gather at a local market outside a state owned Coal fired power plant near the site of a large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company on a lake caused by a collapsed and flooded coal mine on June 14, …
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China’s state-run Global Times boasted on Monday – day seven of the COP26 climate conference in Scotland – that coal output has reached “the highest level in recent years,” so China’s vast array of carbon-spewing coal-fired power plants can “ensure energy supply security and residential heating during the winter.”

China, the world’s worst polluter by far, built three times as many coal plants as all other nations combined in 2020. When power shortages and rolling blackouts began hitting China’s industrial centers in the fall of 2021, the Chinese government ordered an “all-out” campaign to “produce as much coal as possible” from both domestic mines and foreign suppliers.

According to the Global Times, that effort has been successful:

From November 1-5, the average daily dispatch of coal reached 11.66 million tons, an increase of more than 1.2 million tons from the end of September, as coal mines have been gradually put into operation, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said on Monday.

The thermal coal supply has also continued to increase, and the rebound of coal inventories at power plants has been accelerated. Since early November, the average daily supply of coal at power plants has hit 7.74 million tons and coal inventories have reached 1.6 million tons, according to the NDRC.

On November 6, the stock of coal reserves across the country’s power plants exceeded 117 million tons, an increase of about 40 million tons compared with the end of September.

October saw China importing 26.943 million tons of coal, a 96 percent increase over the previous year. Combined with the surge of domestic output, the supply of coal grew large enough to bring prices down, according to the NDRC.

“Analysts said that officials’ ability to quickly stabilize coal supplies as well as prices underscored the country’s capabilities in dealing with emergencies and its determination to put livelihood at front and center,” the Global Times applauded.

This should all be horrifying news for climate activists, especially since China pointedly refused to make any commitments to COP26 and Chinese dictator Xi Jinping did not attend the conference. 

Criticism of China’s “coal addiction” was supposed to be a focus of COP26, as NBC News reported at the outset of the summit, but criticism has been muted while Beijing merrily announced record-breaking coal production. 

An “international alliance” to “phase out coal” was formed by COP26 attendees last Thursday – but China and India, the world’s top two coal burners, did not join. The summit produced some general criticism of Asia for being too slow to embrace renewable energy, but the lack of sharp criticism against China is remarkable, considering that China accounts for almost 60 percent of Asia’s coal consumption.


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