How do past global experiences of coal phase-out inform China's domestic approach to a just transition?

Sustain Sci. 2023 Apr 12:1-18. doi: 10.1007/s11625-023-01312-5. Online ahead of print.


China produces nearly half of the world's coal and more than half of the global coal-fired electricity. Its CO2 emissions are higher than the combined volumes of the next three world regions-the US, Europe, and India. China has announced a net-zero commitment by 2060. This timeline creates enormous pressure to maintain energy security while phasing down coal use. Despite the localized nature of China's coal production with nearly 80% of its thermal coal industry concentrated in four provinces, the dependencies are complex and extensive. Large-scale changes to energy systems will result in a range of social, cultural, and economic disruptions across China's urban, rural, and remote regions. This paper examines experiences with coal transitions in other jurisdictions and considers implications for China. We examine the drivers, successes, and failures of coal phase-down in Germany, Poland, Australia, the UK, and the US. Despite significant differences in scale and complexity, these experiences offer important insights for China as it works to meet its climate commitments.

Keywords: China; Coal phase-out; Energy transition; Just transitions.

Publication types

  • Review