Boom and Bust 2023: Tracking the global coal plant pipeline

coal fired power station with cooling towers releasing steam into atmosphere
Coal fired power station with cooling towers. Photo by 安琦 王 on Adobe Stock.

As the largest single source of emissions, ending coal power is the central pillar of all climate mitigation scenarios. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly emphasised the importance of “rapid and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” to keep the global average temperature increase below 1.5°C. UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently called for an immediate end to new coal projects, and the phase-out of existing coal by 2030 in developed nations and 2040 in the rest of the world.

The period since the Paris Agreement was signed in late 2015 has seen a dramatic contraction in the scale of new coal under consideration globally. This positive trend continued in 2022 as almost all countries and regions experienced either an ongoing decline or a plateau in the scale of new coal capacity under consideration. However, China’s renewed coal power boom in 2022 seriously undermines progress away from new coal in the rest of the world. China now accounts for 72% of global pre-construction capacity, up from 66% a year ago. 

Despite speculations of a “coal comeback” following the upheaval in the global energy sector last year, the end of coal is still on the horizon. Currently, around one-third of the global coal capacity in operation (580 GW) has a phase-out date, and much of the remaining capacity (1,400 GW) is subject to carbon neutrality targets. Only 5% of the global coal fleet remains outside the purview of national commitments, a fact that would have been nearly inconceivable a decade ago. 

Key findings:

  1. Globally, the operating coal capacity grew by 19.5 GW in 2022. More than half (59%) of the 45.5 GW of newly commissioned capacity was in China. Outside China, the global coal fleet continued to shrink, although at a slower rate than in previous years.  
  2. All world regions outside Central Asia and China saw a decline or plateau in the scale of new coal under consideration in 2022. No new coal projects are being considered in the European Union and North America. The scale of proposed new coal power capacity outside China is down by 84% since 2015, with reductions of 90% in OECD / EU and 83% in non-OECD countries. 
  3. For the first time ever, total pre-construction coal capacity has fallen below 100 GW in the world outside China (96.7 GW). Only 20 new coal plant proposals were initiated or restored in the entire world outside China in 2022.  

Oyku Senlen and Leo Roberts from E3G contributed to this report produced by the Global Energy Monitor, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), Sierra Club, Solutions for Our Climate, Kiko Network, Climate Action Network Europe, Legal Initiative For Forest And Environment, Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, and Waterkeepers Bangladesh.   

Explore the full report here.

For further analysis on the status of the global coal power project pipeline, please also find our most recent E3G analysis here


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