Hundreds of coal plants are still being planned worldwide, enough to cook the planet

Hundreds of coal plants are still being planned worldwide, enough to cook the planet

Since 2000, countries like China, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam have been building coal-fired power plants at a torrid pace:

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 4.25.27 PM

Boom and Bust 2016. This chart shows net coal capacity added each year — that is, new plants built minus retirements of older plants.

The coal boom has had undeniable benefits, helping poor countries climb out of poverty. But it also has serious downsides: Carbon dioxide emissions accelerated in the 2000s, and if coal continues to be the world’s leading source of electricity, we’ll cook the planet.

So the biggest, most important climate question for the next 15 years is: How long will this global coal boom last? Or, put another way, when will the rise of clean energy finally stop coal’s growth for good?

One invaluable data source here is an annual report from three environmental groups: CoalSwarm, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace. Each year, the authors document all the new coal plants that have been announced, permitted, or are currently being built around the world.

In their 2016 “Boom and Bust” report, they find the equivalent of 1,500 new coal plants in the pipeline worldwide. That’s a staggering number. If even one-third of these plants get built and operate for their full lifetime, we’ll likely bust through the 2°C global warming threshold that world leaders have promised to stay below. Even 3°C could be tough to avoid.

But there’s a major asterisk here: It’s not yet certain all these plants will actually get completed. Since 2010, two-thirds of proposed coal projects have gotten scrapped. China, which today accounts for half the world’s planned capacity, has seen its coal appetite wane in the last few years and is tacking toward cleaner energy sources. India is another big question mark. So is Southeast Asia.

Source: Vox

Date: April 2016

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