Green China? The Country Could Mine 400 Million More Tons Of Coal

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

China could add as much as 400 million tons of coal capacity over the next two years, according to analysts at the consulting firm Woods Mackenzie.

That’s about a 10 percent increase in China’s coal production capacity, which is a stark contrast to the country’s talk about closing coal mines to reduce excess capacity and fight air pollution, according to Bloomberg. “For all its talk about cutting coal mining capacity, China actually plans to add more.” the news outlet reported on Monday.

Chinese officials made moves to shelve coal projects and increase the use of natural gas for heating — though that left many working poor without heat during the frigid winter. All of these actions are generally put in context of China’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

China promised to “peak” emissions around 2030, decrease carbon dioxide emissions per unit of economic output and use more green energy. Woods Mackenzie’s analysis released Monday, however, shows that China is far away from a green energy renaissance like many environmental activists hope.

Indeed, China’s greenhouse gas emissions increased 4 percent in the first quarter of 2018, and that was after the country’s emissions jumped 1.7 percent in 2017. (RELATED: A New Report Shows Paris Climate Accord Backers Are Just ‘Outsourcing’ CO2 Emissions To China)

Chinese emissions are rising again after flatlining for a few years. During that time, China signed onto the Paris accord. The Obama administration joined the Paris accord in 2016, pledging to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

The Paris accord aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, but allows countries to set their own emissions targets. President Donald Trump announced last year he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord.

China’s efforts to curb pollution is often conflated with the country’s Paris accord pledge to fight global warming, but the two aren’t necessarily compatible, according to a 2015 report.

“Not only do the goals of reducing carbon emissions and air pollution not reinforce each other, they conflict,” Patricia Adams, economist and head of an environmental non-governmental organization, wrote in a 2015 report.

Adams’ argument is that technologies to curb air pollution from coal plants exist and are cost-effective, whole carbon capture and storage equipment has not been proven on an economy-wide scale.

“Efforts to reduce it rely on unproven abatement technologies, and are prohibitively expensive. In contrast, abating air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide rely on proven technologies and are relatively inexpensive,” reads Adams’ report, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

“Yet it is in the political interests of all concerned to perpetuate the myth that the goal of reducing air pollution complements the goal of reducing carbon dioxide,” Adams wrote.

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