China, the World's Biggest Coal Polluter to Close Shop
March 6, 2016 James West / Mother Jones Magazine & Cenk Uygur / The Young Turks
China, the world's top coal producer, and the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, will shut down 1,000 coalmines this year. Constituting a whopping 70 percent of China's energy supply, coal has allowed the country to become the world's second-largest economy in just a few decades. But burning coal has also caused irreparable damage to the environment and the health of China's citizens. It's a crisis. And something has to change.
(February. 23, 2016) -- The world's top coal producer, and the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, will shut down 1,000 coalmines this year. It's a move that will simultaneously cool off China's over-supply of dirty coal and help tackle the country's air pollution crisis -- with even deeper cuts to come.
The news was confirmed on Monday by China's National Energy Administration, and first reported by Xinhua, the state-run outlet, after detailed plans to slash coal consumption were issued earlier this month by the country's powerful executive body, the State Council. The move will accelerate China's well-documented shift away from coal.
The news comes as a Chinese firm topped a reputable global ranking for wind energy production for the first time, besting US giant General Electric. Chinese companies already lead the world in solar energy production.
Plans to curb coal in China have been shaping up for some time now, as leaders scramble to cope with smog-choked cities while trying to meet international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
As China's economy slows and modernizes away from dirtier industries like manufacturing, the country doesn't need quite as much coal, which has for decades been the force behind its rocketing economic "miracle."
The resulting over-supply of coal has caused coal prices to plunge, shaking international markets. This has left plenty of fat for China's leaders to trim in the energy system. At the end of 2015, the government announced for the first time that it would suspend all new coal power plant approvals.
In total, China will take 60 million metric tons of coal production offline this year alone -- and around 500 million over the next three-to-five years -- by closing small or old mines. Another 500 million tons will be slashed by consolidating various producers.
According to Reuters, which cites estimates from the China National Coal Association, about half of the country's 10,760 coal mines will eventually be forced to close. Officials are hoping that could result in fewer polluted days in Chinese cities, which far too often suffer under poisonous smog, especially across the winter months, as I saw when I visited in 2013:
James West is senior producer for the Climate Desk and a contributing producer for Mother Jones. He wrote Beijing Blur (Penguin 2008), and produced award-winning TV in his native Australia. He's been to Kyrgyzstan, and also invited himself to Thanksgiving dinner after wrongly receiving invites for years from the mysterious Tran family.
China's Coal Problem -- The Dirty Secret Cenk Uygur / The Young Turks
(February 2, 2013) -- "As the data show, China is now burning almost as much coal as the rest of the world -- combined. And despite impressive support from Beijing for renewable energy and a dawning understanding about the dangers of air pollution, coal use in China is poised to continue rising, if slower than it has in recent years.
That's deadly for the Chinese people -- see the truly horrific air pollution in Beijing this past month -- and it's dangerous for the rest of the world. Coal already accounts for 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, making it one of the biggest causes of man-made climate change.
Combine that with the direct damage that air pollution from coal combustion does to human health, and there's a reason why some have called coal the enemy of the human race.
Is this the scariest environmental fact in the world? China is using an enormous amount of coal, rivaling the rest of the entire world combined in coal burning. They have the worsening, abysmal smog to show it too. What will happen if this keeps up, and if India burns as much coal as they're on track to?.
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