The real war on coal is happening in China right now

The real war on coal is happening in China right now

(Vox) Not going away without a fight. The most important global warming story over the past two years has arguably been China’s struggle to suppress its once-insatiable appetite for coal.

Lately, those efforts have begun paying off. Recent data suggests that China’s carbon dioxide emissions fell in 2015, driven by a sharp drop in coal use. There’s always plenty of uncertainty with China’s energy stats, but this shift does look significant: Chart and analysis by Glen Peters and Jan Ivar Korsbakken, using both China’s official stats and BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy. As I’ve written before , a sluggish economy can explain part of this dip — but not all. China is making a long-term transition away from heavy industry. The central government is trying to clamp down on air pollution and setting aggressive targets for clean energy sources like nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar. There’s a major push to green the economy and hit peak CO2 emissions by (or before) 2030.

And yet … with China, nothing’s ever that simple. Over the past year, as a recent report from Greenpeace details, some of China’s regulatory agencies have alsoapproved permits for 210 brand-new coal plants across the country — which, if built, would make it harder for the country to meet its climate targets. Many of these plants are being urged on by coal-mining provinces that have been hit hard economically of late.

These 210 new coal plants aren’t (yet) guaranteed to be built. In fact, key officials in Beijing are lobbying to cancel many of them. But the controversy around the plants helps illustrate just how tricky it will be to clean up the world’s largest CO2 polluter. The government is trying to throttle back on fossil fuels — but it also has to be mindful of high unemployment and potential unrest in its key coal regions. China’s coal use may be peaking — but coal won’t go away quietly

Let’s start with the big picture. After two decades, the era of relentless growth in Chinese coal consumption appears to be finally coming to a close.

Trevor Houser and Peter Marsters of […]

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