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Guterres Urges Countries to Dump Coal as China Funds 250 GW, U.S. Refuses to Commit

Countries must stop financing international coal projects and building coal-fired power plants, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres told a virtual clean energy transition summit last week.

“Coal has no place in COVID-19 recovery plans,” Guterres told the summit, hosted by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Guterres “said the business case for renewables was better than for coal in nearly every market and that green jobs and sustainable growth were crucial,” Reuters reports. But while the European Union and South Korea have committed to green recovery programs, “Guterres said some countries have also used economic packages to support fossil fuel companies that were already struggling financially, and others have chosen to jump-start coal-fired power plants.”

The news agency notes that coal use and investment have been declining in Europe and the United States, but rising in other parts of the world. During the IEA summit, China said it was committed to low-carbon energy development.

“We are going to make great efforts to develop hydro, wind, and solar,” said Zhang Jinhua, director of China’s National Energy Administration.

But Reuters says a study released last month “found China has nearly 250 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power under development, more than the United States’ entire coal capacity. Other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, are also investing in coal plants.” 

During the summit, Japan said it would “tighten state-backed financing criteria for overseas coal-fired power plants, following criticism over its support for the dirtiest fossil fuel,” the news agency adds.

Donald Trump’s energy secretary Dan Brouillette made it clear the White House won’t support a ban on carbon-emitting fuels in the 112 days still to go before the U.S. election, or the 190 remaining before the inauguration January 20. [Yes, of course we’re counting down! Aren’t you?—Ed.]

“Renewables by themselves cannot ensure the reliable flow of electricity in any nation,” Brouillette told delegates. “Simply stated, every nation can benefit from a wider mix of fuels to keep its grid running.”