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Carbon emissions from China’s booming digital infrastructure will jump more than twofold by 2035, Greenpeace has estimated, calling on businesses in the country to commit to clean energy.
Reuters reports that, according to Greenpeace, China’s electricity consumption for data centers and 5G base stations is set for a fourfold increase by 2035. Bloomberg quotes Greenpeace as saying this would push related emissions up twofold during the period.
The problem appears to be that despite its leadership in renewable power, China still relies heavily on coal. According to the Reuters report, last year, Chinese data centers and 5G base stations consumed more than 200 billion kWh of electricity, with more than 60 percent coming from coal-powered plants.
According to the Bloomberg report, because of this growing consumption of electricity that comes from fossil fuel power plants, China’s digital tech industry could be emitting 310 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2035. That’s more than the total emission footprint of France, Bloomberg notes, but in all fairness, France is a low emitter because of its reliance on nuclear power for more than half of its electricity generation.
China is home to the biggest 5G network in the world and some of the biggest data centers. It is also the country that started more new coal plants than were retired globally last year. It commissioned 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of new coal plants in 2020, offsetting the record-tying 37.8 GW of coal capacity retired last year, a report by Global Energy Monitor revealed in April. China’s coal boom accounted for 76 percent of the global 50.3 GW new coal capacity.
At the same time, China is aiming for a net-zero status by 2060. Earlier this year, as part of efforts to achieve it, the country started its own emissions trading mechanism, which involved emission caps on more than 2,000 power companies.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.