This is very worrisome:
The IEA estimates that China, which generates more than 70% of its electricity with coal, will build 600 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power capacity in the next quarter-century—as much as is currently generated with coal in America, Japan and the European Union put together. Nomura, a Japanese bank, thinks that may be an underestimate. It reckons China will add some 500GW of coal-fired power by as early as 2015, and will more than double its current generating capacity by 2020. It expects Indian coal-fired power generation to grow too—though more slowly.
Even developing countries with vast quantities of coal under home soil will find themselves unable to dig it out quickly enough to meet demand. China, the world’s biggest coal producer by some distance, has turned to foreign suppliers over the past couple of years and is likely to rely on them even more in future. Its voracious appetite for energy and steel means it will need at least 5-7% more coal each year. Citigroup reckons China will import 233m tonnes in 2011. As Daniel Brebner of Deutsche Bank points out, that is considerably more than the annual capacity of Richards Bay in South Africa or Newcastle in Australia, the world’s biggest coal ports.
If there is to be any hope that rapidly developing states like India and China will switch to a low-carbon development path, it seems essential that rich states like Canada and the United States lead the way – demonstrating that de-carbonization can be achieved at an acceptable cost.
Unfortunately, that seems to be the last thing on the minds of our politicians at the moment. Indeed, developed states remain happy to export coal to places like China, then import some of the products it helps to produce:
As environmentalists point out, rich countries that spurn coal-fired power while exporting the rocks to countries with less ambitious emissions targets are merely shifting the problem around the globe.
For the world as a whole to succeed in reducing greenhouse gas pollution, there are going to need to be restrictions on digging up fossil fuels, as well as importing and exporting them.