China, India lean on coal-fired power to shore up economies

Washington D.C. Correspondent
Source: International Energy Agency: CO2 Emissions in 2023

China and India grew their economies on the backs of coal-fired power in 2023, resulting in record high global carbon dioxide emissions, a new International Energy Agency report finds.

As climate impacts become more frequent and intense, sometimes with devastating outcomes, the world needs to see a decrease in global emissions, not a net increase.

The emissions increase from coal-fired generation in these two countries along with emissions from other emerging economies more than offset the declines in coal power achieved by the United States, the European Union and other wealthier economies.

Carbon dioxide emissions increased 1.1% to reach a record of 410 million metric tons (Mt) in 2023, with coal accounting for more than 65% of the increase in global emissions, or 272 Mt.

China switched to coal-fired generation as did India to shore up their respective economies after dealing with prolonged droughts that led to exceptionally low outputs from hydropower, a key source of renewable energy.

Although China added as much solar capacity in 2023 as the entire world did the year before, “a historically bad year for hydropower output and the continued reopening of its economy after the pandemic drove up China’s emissions,” wrote the IEA.

Meanwhile, India surpassed the EU to become the world’s third largest emitter in 2023 as the country ramped up its energy-intensive steel and cement sectors.

According to the IEA, emerging economies in Asia now account for around half of global CO2 emissions, up from around 40% in 2015. China alone now accounts for 35% of global emissions.

Although pleased clean energy growth caused a decline in coal-fired emissions in wealthier nations, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement, “we need far greater efforts to enable emerging and developing economies to ramp up clean energy investment.”