Despite global cries for an end to fossil fuel use, China’s coal production reached record levels last year. The government encouraged miners to ramp up production, working at maximum capacity to increase China’s economic growth.
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China is the world’s biggest coal producer. Last month, the country set a new record by mining more than 384 million metric tons of coal. In 2021, China hit an all-time high for coal output, topping 4.07 billion metric tons, an increase of 4.7% from 2020.
These figures come just a couple of months after the huge COP26 climate talks in Glasgow. At COP26, countries fiercely disagreed over coal use. COP26 president Alok Sharma was deeply frustrated and claimed that China and India would “have to explain themselves to poor nations” for clinging to coal. During the talks, India diluted the language around coal, changing the pact from “phasing out” to “phasing down.”
So far, China’s phase-down has yet to start. In fact, last month a new major power project in Inner Mongolia opened the first of four 1,000-megawatt generating units. The project is located in Shanghaimiao town in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. The area has coal resources covering more than 4,000 square kilometers, with reserves of somewhere between 14.3 and 50 billion tons.
Meanwhile, China is feeling the effects of climate change. According to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), the country endured historic temperature highs last year. China’s average temperature in 2021 was 10.7 degrees Celsius, or about 51 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest since the CMA began tracking the weather in 1961. This is about one degree Celsius higher than usual.
While the CMA did not explicitly cite climate change as the reason for increased temperatures, Jia Xiaolong, deputy director of the CMA subsidiary National Climate Centre, has implied a connection. “The multiple and frequent occurrences of extreme weather events have become normal against a backdrop of global warming, posing great challenges to meteorological disaster prevention and mitigation,” he said, as reported by Carbon Brief.