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Although countries like India are taking rapid strides in promoting renewables, the extraction, use and strengthening of the coal supply chain is still going strong

Increasing use of coal is driving up global emissions growth (Photo by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo)

Increasing use of coal is driving global emissions growth (Photo by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo)

A majority of the world’s companies operating on the thermal coal value chain are still expanding, data compiled by a civil society watchdog show, which puts the aim of limiting global temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius in danger. Many Indian companies figure in the list.

Over 400 of the 746 firms on the Global Coal Exit List (GCEL) are still planning to expand their coal operations, according to a public database maintained by Urgewald, a German non-profit environmental organisation. The GCEL, launched in November 2017, provides key statistics on companies throughout the entire thermal coal value chain.

The latest GCEL, updated in September 2019, represent 89% of the world’s thermal coal production and almost 87% of the world’s installed coal-fired capacity. Although the global coal plant pipeline shrank by over 50% in the past three years, new plants are still planned or under development in 60 countries around the world, the list shows. If all of these plants are built, they would add over 579 GW to the global coal-fired plant fleet, an increase of almost 29%.

Over 200 companies on the GCEL are still expanding their coal-mining activities, often in the face of resistance by local communities. Most of the world’s largest coal producers are still in expansion mode, the list shows. “Our 2019 data shows that the time for patient engagement with the coal industry has definitely run out,” said Heffa Schuecking, director of Urgewald.

Out of the 746 parent companies listed on the GCEL, 361 are either running or developing coal power plants, 237 are involved in coal mining and 148 are primarily service companies, which are active in areas such as coal trading, processing and transport.

China and India

The countries with the largest coal plant pipelines include China (226 GW), India (91 GW), Bangladesh (23 GW) and Indonesia (20 GW). China remains the top nation that has coal power expansion plans abroad. Chinese companies are planning to build new coal plants totalling 54 GW in 20 countries. These account for 24% of the total coal power capacity being developed by Chinese companies.

The list shows that the four countries with the most coal companies are China (164), India (87), the US (82) and Australia (51). Coal India Ltd remains the world’s largest thermal coal producer. Last year, Coal India produced 534 million tonnes, accounting for 8% of world thermal coal production of 6,780 million tonnes, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The second-largest coal producer was China Energy Investment Corporation with production of 510 million tonnes.

The world’s largest coal plant developer is India’s NTPC Ltd, which has declared it won’t plan any new coal-fired power plant, but already has 31 GW of new coal-fired capacity in the pipeline – mostly expansion or modernisation of existing plants, but some greenfield plants too. Among other Indian companies, the list includes India’s Essar Group, which is building a coal export terminal in Mozambique.

The fact that Adani Ports & Special Economic Zones – a subsidiary of the coal-heavy Adani Group – was able to recently raise USD 750 million through a bond issue shows that financial institutions still have a blind spot in regards to the role logistics and transport companies play for the expansion of the coal industry, Urgewald said.

“Our research shows that the expansion of coal mining, coal transport and coal power all go hand in hand,” said Schuecking. “It is high time for banks, insurers, pension funds and other investors to take their money out of the coal industry.”

Countries in South and South East Asia will need to consider how to reverse their current trend of expanding coal-fired generation capacity and how to implement policies to enable a fast decarbonisation of the electricity mix, phasing out coal for power generation by 2040, global think tank Climate Analytics said in a recent report. See: Renewables, not coal, is the only way to go

Global greenhouse gas emissions surged in 2018 on the back of rising energy demand that was met substantially by burning more coal in India and China, the IEA said in its latest global energy and CO2 status report. Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide rose steeply by 1.7% to a record 33 gigatonnes in 2018, IEA said. See: Coal main culprit in pushing up carbon emissions

India, China and the US accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand around the world, IEA said. Global coal consumption rose 0.7%, with increases seen only in Asia, particularly in China, India and a few countries in South and Southeast Asia, it added.

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