China’s Underreporting On Pollution May Be Driving Coal’s Historic Decline

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Environmentalists are cheering a new Greenpeace study that says coal consumption is facing its biggest decline in history, but China’s deception on pollution data may cast doubt on the new report.

China accounts for half of global coal demand and has been underreporting its country’s coal consumption by as much as 17 percent. The revelation of data tampering means China is releasing an extra billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, according to the New York Times.

The fact that coal’s largest consumer falsified its market data calls into question the veracity of a new Greenpeace study that says coal is facing its biggest decline in history. The environmental activist group released a report Monday claiming that global coal consumption has contracted by 2.3 percent to a historic 4.3 percent over the first nine months of 2015. Government efforts to regulate away from pollutants has driven the decline according to the report, which represents a decrease of about 180 million tons of standard coal, reports Bloomberg.

“These trends show that the so-called global coal boom in the first decade of the 21st century was a mirage,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace’s coal and energy campaigner. “Coal is in terminal decline, and those countries investing in coal for export markets are making reckless decisions.”

The situation in China must be addressed in the context of the global coal market, as their misleading data represents a substantial amount of the resource worldwide. According to The Guardian, China burned 600 million more tons of coal than was previously thought, representing over 70 percent of the U.S.’s total annual consumption.

“It is quite a lot more than previously reported,” said Li Shuo, the senior climate and energy policy officer for Greenpeace East Asia. “It is basically equivalent to the whole national consumption of Germany, and Germany is a large coal-consumption country in Europe.”

China’s polluting habits are expected to be a hot button issue at this December’s global climate summit in Paris. China’s rejection of a global climate solution at the 2009 talks in Copenhagen proved fatal to the movement, so cooperation on China’s part is key to any successful deal being reached, reports The Guardian. Lin Boqiang, the director of the China center for energy economics research at Xiamen University, is optimistic despite the recent report of China’s emissions misdeeds.

“What people want to know about at the Paris summit are China’s future emissions projections. We should look forward rather than backward,” Boqiang said. “China does have huge carbon emissions but if we look forward China’s emissions will soon peak and begin to fall.”

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