First official take on China’s pledge to stop building new coal power overseas

A government document on developing a green Belt and Road has offered the first official interpretation of China’s pledge to build no new coal-fired power plants overseas

The “opinion“ document, released on Monday 28 March, states China has “totally stopped the construction of new coal power plants overseas”, while plants already being built should “move ahead steadily and cautiously.”

Questions will remain about which plants count as new and which as already under construction. For example, would a project still go ahead if it has secured financing and signed all relevant contracts but not yet begun pouring concrete?

Of plants that do go ahead, the document encourages efficiency in coal utilisation and calls for the use of emission-mitigating technologies such as sulphate scrubbers and carbon capture storage and utilisation.

The document, co-published by the National Development and Reform Commission, and the ministries of foreign affairs, environment and commerce, repeats official encouragements for Chinese solar and wind companies to expand their overseas markets. It also highlights nuclear, energy storage, hydrogen and “smart grids” as important areas of energy cooperation on the Belt and Road.

Outside of energy, the document emphasises improving environmental risk assessments for overseas projects. And it highlights South-South cooperation as a framework through which to “help Belt and Road countries improve their capacity to respond to climate change.” 

Read more about the challenges to China’s overseas coal pledge in our story this week on Indonesia.