SAN FRANCISCO, CA –A boom in new coal mines and mine expansions commissioned in China since mid-2021 threatens to raise global methane emissions by 10%, according to a new report by Global Energy Monitor (GEM). The boom is at odds with pledges by China to phase down coal consumption by the mid-2020s.
GEM’s report finds that in response to an acute domestic “energy crisis” at the end of last year, China commissioned new mining capacity that unleashed an estimated 2.5 million tonnes (Mt) of new coal mine methane emissions within a matter of months, equivalent 74 Mt of CO2, and comparable to the emissions of 20 coal-fired power plants operating year-round.
“China’s frenzy of new mine development is creating hundreds of new sources of methane emissions. While making recent strides to meet its climate goals, China still needs to reckon with the potential fallout from a short-term mining boom,” said Ryan Driskell Tate, Project Manager for the Global Coal Mine Tracker.
Other key findings:
- The surge in new coal production to meet electricity shortages boosted China’s mine capacity 464 Mt, with actual output up at least 270 million tonnes, more than the annual output of South Africa (246 Mt), the world’s seventh largest coal producer.
- As a result of this boom, China broke its production record, mining 4,070 Mt in 2021, which almost certainly contributed to higher methane emissions.
- On top of the surge in new coal mine capacity last year, China has 559 Mtpa of new coal mine proposals under development, which is equivalent to the output of Indonesia (564 Mtpa), the world’s third largest coal producer. The new expansions in capacity are highly concentrated in just four provinces: Inner Mongolia (196 mtpa), Xinjiang (125 mtpa), Shaanxi (95 mtpa), and Shanxi (79 mtpa). Together, these four provinces comprise one-quarter (495 mtpa) of all proposed coal mine capacity worldwide (1,944 mtpa).
- The expansion complicated China’s pledges to reduce coal consumption in its October 2021 “Peak by 2030 Action Plan” and the US–China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s, which stated that “China will phase down coal consumption during the 15th Five-Year Plan and make best efforts to accelerate this work.”
FIGURE 1. Coal mine capacity added under China’s emergency act, July – October 2021
China added new coal mine capacity (blue bars) in 2021 the months of Q3 and Q4 in response to the energy crisis. The black dots represent the actual increase in output that resulted from these mine capacity additions.
Source: Government of China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and GEM analysis.
Absent relentless adoption of mitigation practices at these new operations, GEM estimates that China’s proposed mines could emit an additional 6 Mt of methane each year, which would increase global coal mine methane emissions more than 10%. China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, already emits 73% of the world’s coal mine methane.
Ryan Driskell Tate, +1 (763) 221-3313, [email protected]
Global Energy Monitor (GEM) develops and shares information on fossil fuel projects in support of the worldwide movement for clean energy. Current projects include the Global Coal Plant Tracker, the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, the Global Gas Infrastructure Tracker, the Global Gas Plant Tracker, the Europe Gas Tracker, the CoalWire and Inside Gas newsletters, and the GEM wiki. For more information, visit www.globalenergymonitor.org.