On the northern edge of a Chinese factory city, welding torches gleam as workers finish construction on a gas-fired power plant to and blanketed the surrounding neighborhood in a sooty pall.
It is one of several huge gas fired plants being built to pump more electricity throughout this sprawling industrial city of about 10 million, where rising demand for power has led to and threaten international supply chains.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised that his country will start redicing carbon di oxide and other gases generated by burning coal, gas and oil by 2030 and then stop adding them to the atmosphere altogether by 2060.
China has taken some important steps this year to begin to curb its use of coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. He added that the country would reach peak coal consumption by 2025 and then reduce it over the following five years.
Xi’s promise, local governments slowed approvals for new coal power projects within China, after a big surge in 2020. Some provinces, like coastal Shandong, mandated over the summer that some of their oldest, least efficient coal-fired plants be closed.
In September, Xi announced at the United Nations that China would stop financing new coal power plants in other countries. Several US experts said that was an important step but not enough.
The United States has released more man-made carbon dioxide over the past century than any other country, although China is the biggest current emitter now by a wide margin and catching up fast in cumulative emissions.
China’s remarkable growth in energy consumption is fueled by its manufacturing sector. China has one-fifth of the world’s population but produces one-third of the world’s factory goods.
The biggest driver of China’s emissions, however, is its appetite for steel and cement, key ingredients for apartment towers, bullet train lines, subways and other large construction projects. Producing these two materials accounts for about one-quarter of China’s carbon emissions.
An electricity shortage has temporarily shut down thousands of factories in the past two weeks. Elevators have been turned off in low-rise buildings in southeastern China. Some municipal water pumping stations have been forced to halt operations in northeastern China.
Beijing is also trying to use market forces to expand renewable energy. The Chinese government has ordered electric utilities to charge industrial and commercial customers up to five times as much when power is scarce, and generated mainly by coal, as when renewable energy is flooding into the grid.