China’s provinces are secretly building coal plants in defiance of the national government

Local governments in China are battling the central government to build more coal power plants, even as the country struggles to curb its greenhouse-gas emissions.

Between 2014 and 2016, China’s provincial authorities issued a spree of permits for the construction of new coal power plants, totaling some 259 gigawatts of coal-energy capacity (pdf)—roughly equal the entire current US coal fleet. Then China’s national government said “not so fast,” and issued a series of orders in 2016 and 2017 to stop or delay the construction of more than 150 planned plants, comprising nearly 57 GW of energy capacity. A new report suggests many are being built anyway.

CoalSwarm, a global network of researchers tracking fossil-fuel infrastructure, analyzed satellite imagery as of July 2018, and discovered that the construction of around half of those 150 plants is still proceeding, despite the government orders.

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