Greenpeace is urging China's top ten power companies to reduce their heavy reliance on coal and to stop dragging their feet over their renewable energy obligation.
Earlier this week, Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner in front of a coal-fired power station west of Beijing, with the words “Save the Climate” in Chinese and a symbol for “No Coal”.
The top ten power companies provide almost 60% of China's total electricity and burnt 20% of China's coal in 2008, emitting the equivalent of 1.44bn tonnes of CO2 .
One statistic vividly illustrates the scale of the problem. In 2008, China's three largest power generators — Huaneng, Datang and Guodian — together emitted more CO2 than the UK's total emissions in the same year.
The government is well aware of the growing international concern at China's insatiable appetite for coal and the potentially devastating effect it could have on worldwide attempts to reduce global warming, such as the UN Climate Meeting in Copenhagen this December.
To demonstrate that it has finally woken up to the problem, the government says 54GW of the least efficient coal-fired plants have been closed down since 2006. Greenpeace wants the power companies to go much further and phase out all inefficient coal-fired plants under 100MW by 2012. By doing so, China could reduce coal consumption by 90m tonnes and avoid emitting 220m tonnes of CO2 each year.
Greenpeace also wants the power companies to accelerate investment in renewable energy. According to China's renewable energy development plan, large power companies are obliged to have at least 3% of their installed capacity from non-hydro renewable sources by 2010. But at the end of 2008, eight out of the ten were not even half way to meeting this modest target, the report noted.