Beijing’s last major coal-fired power plant shut down Sunday as part of the Chinese capital’s switch to natural gas in order to reduce pollution and smog.
Beijing became China’s first city to have all natural, gas-fired power plants, according to government-controlled media outlet Xinhua. Chinese officials switched from coal to natural gas primarily to reduce stifling air pollution.
“We may not be able to control the weather, but we can adjust our behavior and our way of development,” Premier Li Keqiang said in a press conference. “Blue skies should no longer be a luxury, nor will they be.”
In December, 460 million in northeastern China suffered through pollution-induced miasma, otherwise known as a toxic cloud. Officials put in place an emergency anti-pollution plan to combat the miasma. Factories shut down and cars were taken off the road to abate smog and particulate pollution.
China created an environmental police force in January to crack down on open-air barbecues, garbage incineration and burning wood. The green police also enforce school and business closures on smoggy days, and can cancel plane flights and shut down highways to reduce pollution.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) have stated China’s pollution woes are largely due to the country’s reliance on coal power. China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, and is planning to double down on it. Of the 2,400 coal-fired power plants under construction or being planned around the world, 1,171 will be built in China.
MIT scientists recommended China solve its smog problem by replacing coal power with natural gas. Natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide (CO2) and pollutants of coal power, and is already cheaper than coal in many locations in the U.S. due to fracking.
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