China should shut coal plants by 2040-2045 to meet CO2 neutrality goal: Researchers

China's pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060 has put the spotlight on the country's coal-dependent energy sector.
China's pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060 has put the spotlight on the country's coal-dependent energy sector.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China should phase out all conventional coal-fired power plants without carbon capture technology by 2040-2045 if it is to achieve its ambition to become "carbon neutral" by 2060, according to new research published on Thursday (Dec 10).

Chinese President Xi Jinping in September announced that China would bring its greenhouse gas emissions to a peak before 2030 and become "carbon-neutral" by 2060.

The pledge has put the spotlight on China's heavily coal-dependent energy sector, with policymakers now under pressure to think of ways to accelerate the transition towards clean and green alternative fuels.

Researchers commissioned by the Chinese office of the US-based Energy Foundation think-tank said China must accelerate the elimination from its entire economic system of coal that does not deploy carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology if the country is to achieve its goals.

"Emissions from the electricity sector must peak and start to decline immediately, and reach zero or are negative by 2050,"said Dr Leon Clarke, an author of the report, on Thursday.

Core steps in the near term, starting from next year, include dismantling small-scale coal-fired industrial kilns and boilers, and ending the use of coal in rural heating and cooking, the researchers said.

The last step on the road to carbon neutrality would be the phasing out of coal in industrial sectors like steel, where decarbonisation is the most challenging, they said.

They expect China to reach a carbon peak of around 10.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2025.

China has promised to show more ambition when it submits updated pledges to the United Nations before the end of the year, but it still has an estimated 250 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity either proposed or under construction.

The European Union has urged China to halt all new coal projects and to stop financing overseas coal plants. However, diplomats said China was still hoping to delay any harsh curbs on coal investment until at least 2025.

China's President Xi is expected to use the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Paris climate accord on Saturday to announce the official launch of the country's long-awaited nationwide emissions trading scheme, diplomatic sources said on Thursday.