Many different countries have focused on using renewable energy to help rebuild their economies after the devastating impact of the China-spawned coronavirus pandemic. Previously, China, despite being the world’s top polluter and energy consumer, had seemed poised to become a climate leader as the U.S. began to back out of international agreements that would be costly and damaging to the U.S.

But the origin country of the virus is not immune to its effects. China has now pivoted away from clean energy in its recovery efforts. The South China Morning Post reports that China is in the midst of a new coal boom: 

Far from treating the coronavirus pandemic as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speed up decarbonisation and lock in climate goals, there are signs China is falling back on its old playbook of pumping cheap credit into fossil-fuel heavy energy projects to help the economy recover from a historic first quarter contraction.

Following a dramatic plunge in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions at the start of the year, China’s energy sector is roaring back to life. Daily consumption of coal, oil and gas in June was on par with the previous year, according to the government, and analysts say carbon emissions have bounced back to pre-coronavirus levels.

To give some perspective, the article continues: 

China has 249.6 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity either under construction or in planning, according to Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air – which is larger than the current coal fleets of the United States or India. 

Despite this jump in domestic coal production, on the international stage, China has continued its propaganda fictions about its commitment to clean energy. The director of China’s National Energy Administration, Zhang Jianhua, has stated that:

Beijing would “stay committed to a green and low carbon transition in the energy sector”, despite headwinds from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The article continues: 

[Jianhua] also promised an additional 85.1GW of wind and solar power would be installed this year, bringing the total capacity of renewables to 850GW. And China, which is already a world leader in the deployment of electric cars, would make expansion of charging infrastructure a top priority.

But if we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that China cannot be trusted.

The Chinese government is continually seeking out new ways to gain footholds across the world, through various strategies such as “private” companies like Huawei, or their Belt and Road Initiative, through which they’ve made considerable progress entangling African countries in their net. 

China’s ruling Communist Party isn’t interested in anything unless it serves to advance their own interests. At the moment, they’re looking to gain political favor through their “commitment” to green energy while boosting their domestic economic situation in the easiest way possible – ramped up coal production.