International coal use, especially in emerging and developing economies that are growing exponentially, is increasing and having a disproportionate impact on climate change. Currently, there are roughly 8,500 coal power plants in operation worldwide, generating over a third of all electricity while producing a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, far outpacing other single sources. Within the power sector, 68% of global carbon emissions will come from coal over the next decade, according to the IEA.
While coal generation has dropped in the United States and Europe, the International Energy Agency (IEA) cites growth of coal use in China and other Asian countries that is keeping coal as the largest source of power generation (36% share of global power generation). Despite record coal plant retirements in the United States and the European Union, production in China alone is offsetting these retirements, according to a Global Energy Monitor report.
The report highlights key metrics that distinguish how China is impacting global efforts on coal reduction:
It is estimated roughly 60% of electricity generated in China, India and Indonesia is from coal, with another 90 percent of new coal power plan development coming from developing economies mostly in Asia. Carbon Brief provides an illustrated map to showcase currently global coal generation and where its greatest development is taking place.
As some nations move away from coal and nuclear power to other renewable sources like offshore wind, natural gas has been needed to support emission reductions and reliability. Yet, hostile actors like Russia are increasingly using energy as a geopolitical weapon to force desperate nations to concede to unrelated issues favorable to Russia. This has been exercised with gas shut offs to the Ukraine and with looming crises before the 2021-2022 winter season in Europe.
A major solution to help curb carbon emissions, support American jobs, and provide global energy security is to export U.S. Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). The benefits of transporting affordable natural gas to developing nations and Europe allows new economies abroad to flourish, helps secure current energy grids from potential crisis, and prevents bad foreign actors from withholding needed energy supply to our allies.
U.S. exported LNG is also a huge player in reducing global carbon emissions. A Western States and Tribal National Natural Gas Initiative study shows LNG shipped from the United States could account for a 42-55 percent reduction in net emissions if it is used to replace coal infrastructure in China, India, South Korea and Taiwan. The study accounts for all greenhouse gas emissions, not just carbon emissions, providing further proof of the monumental benefits export LNG will have worldwide.