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More than 2.2 billion tons in annual coal mining capacity is currently under development, threatening the Paris Agreement targets, environmental think-tank Global Energy Monitor said in a new report.
The report notes that most of this capacity, or some 1.663 billion tons annually, is in the early stages of development and could be canceled, but the rest is already under construction.
“The prospect of a low-carbon transition puts these projects at risk of up to $91 billion USD in stranded assets,” Global Energy Monitor said, adding “But if they proceed, without unprecedented cutbacks in global production over the next decade, proposed capacity could boost supply to over four times a 1.5°C-compliant pathway.”
Stopping so much new coal mining capacity will be a tough job. Most of these projects are hardly in the developed economies of Western Europe or North America. Last year, China started more coal plants than the rest of the world retired, illustrating how important coal remains even for advanced economies such as the Chinese one.
Besides China, Russia, Australia, and India are the countries where more than three-quarters of the new mining capacity will be located. Together, these four will account for 1.75 billion tons in additional annual production capacity. China is the undisputed leader with 452 million tons in capacity under construction, followed by Russia, with 59 million tons under construction, Australia with 31 million tons under construction, and India with 13 million tons in mining capacity under construction.
The authors of the Global Energy Monitor point out that coal mine starts and extensions run counter to the recent roadmap to net zero, released by the International Energy Agency. In all fairness, however, the roadmap has met with a strong backlash from oil-rich countries, including Norway and Saudi Arabia. While it may be embraced by environmental groups, it will hardly make it as a flagship document for the energy transition as it calls for the immediate suspension of new oil and gas exploration.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com