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Energy security and economic fears drive China's return to coal

(Reuters, 1 Oct 2020) China is building new coal plants despite poor economic returns, amid fears that plans for a coal-intensive recovery could undermine green pledges.

Red coal trucks zip up and down narrow dirt tracks, churning up clouds of dust in China's remote Gansu province. Nearby, the towering stanchions of a new railway bridge rise out of a muddy river winding through the hills.

The Huaneng Group, one of five big Chinese state utilities, is building a $1.9 billion 4 gigawatt coal and power project in the northwestern region near the city of Qingyang, with the aim of delivering its electricity to the east of the country.

The Zhengning Power Plant Project, which was revived in July four years after it was put on ice, encapsulates the competing pressures that lie behind China's economic and climate policies.

President Xi Jinping surprised the world last week by pledging China would aim for "carbon neutrality" by 2060, but Beijing remains worried about energy security, jobs and growth, especially as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Reuters, 1 Oct 2020: Energy security and economic fears drive China's return to coal