A report has found that the phaseout of coal power is progressing too slowly to prevent “climate chaos.”

According to a report by the San Francisco-based NGO, Global Energy Monitor, the world needs to accelerate its closure of coal power plants and cease building new ones by almost five times the current rate to meet the goals set forth in the Paris climate agreement.

The report warns that the projected increase in coal-fired plants in China will require even more significant cuts to the rest of the global fleet in order to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of “climate chaos.”

The Paris climate agreement stipulates that all coal power plants must be shuttered by 2040, with no new ones coming online. Developed economies are expected to close their plants a decade earlier, necessitating the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries to close 60 gigawatts of coal-power capacity annually until 2030, approximately four and a half times the previous year’s total.

Non-OECD countries will need to close 91GW of coal power capacity per year until 2040 to meet the climate goals.

According to a global survey, the reduction in the total capacity of existing and planned coal plants outside of China has slowed compared to previous years, despite a decrease last year.

Meanwhile, China plans to build enough new plants to more than offset the combined capacity retired by the US and EU in 2022 and is also set to significantly increase its coal usage. Flora Champenois, the lead author of the report and project manager for Global Energy Monitor’s global coal plant tracker, warns that the current rate of phasing out existing and new coal is insufficient to prevent climate chaos.

The report notes that the more new coal projects come online, the more aggressive future cuts and commitments will need to be. In 2022, the global fleet of existing coal plants grew by 19.5 GW, over half of which was commissioned in China.

Additionally, China intends to increase its coal power capacity by a further 126 GW, dwarfing reductions made in developing countries. Although the US led the world in retiring coal power by shutting down 13.5GW of capacity last year, the closures in the EU slowed down from 14.6GW in 2021 to 2.2GW in 2022 due to the increased cost of gas-fired power generation resulting from the war in Ukraine.

According to Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst for the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, progress in retiring coal power plants in developed countries and cancelling new coal projects in developing countries is encouraging, despite the gas crisis that affected global energy markets in 2022.

However, there is an urgent need to accelerate progress, particularly in clean energy investments outside of China. The response to the energy crisis in other countries was dominated by investments in clean energy. In contrast, China sharply increased its planned coal power capacity, underscoring the need for clean solutions and stronger enforcement of existing policies to restrict new coal power projects.

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