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2021 in coal: China’s dirty recovery mars international finance crackdown

The fate of coal power was sealed in 2021 as investors sought cleaner investments and governments committed to work towards a managed decline of the fossil fuel.

Countries agreed at the Cop26 climate talks to wind down unabated coal power, albeit with no timeline nor a consensus for a total phase-out. Asia turned against coal finance. First South Korea, then Japan and finally China, the world’s largest coal financier, put an end to support for new coal power projects abroad, effectively drying up international cash for unabated coal.

But it could be a long goodbye. Plans to exit coal power at home proved a more difficult conversation for coal-dependent governments, including China, India, Russia and Australia.

And promises made throughout the year are yet to be backed with concrete policies and the accelerated roll out of green alternatives. A carbon-intensive recovery to the Covid pandemic, particularly in China, drove global coal power generation to a record high in 2021.


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