China is the worlds largest coal producer but the kings of coal won’t be approving new mines any time soon as the Chinese government announced an end to opening new mines for the next three years. China has now turned a watchful eye on new energy, including nuclear.
Xinhua News Agency, a state-run agency announced the ban last week. Banning new mines is an extremely conscious decision as it has never been done before as reports have noted. However, some mines have closed in the past and will continue to be eliminated in the coming new year.
Tightening the strings on mining licenses is of direct result of slowing Chinese economy, which is affecting energy demand. In addition, the heavy air pollution in Beijing and other towns has caused red alerts. Last month millions of people in China experienced a red alert for air pollution and then a second one the following week. Street visibility became such an issue and many citizens were told to stay indoors.
The ban is another sign that worlds largest coal producer and consumer is taking steps towards distancing themselves from its largest energy source. Nearly 64 percent of Chinese energy is generated from coal, but the country has promised to reduce its consumption by about 2 percent in 2016.
Though such reduction of usage seems small, this is a major turning point for a growing economy that significantly increased coal use over the past 15 years. Some studies have suggested that China’s coal use declined in 2014 after hitting its peak 2013. In turn, the government said it plans to add millions of kilowatts of wind and solar power within the next five years to make the transition easier, while they approve an unspecified number of nuclear plants.
For China, burning less coal not only means less global warming emissions, but also a reduced pollution reaching Chinese lungs. A new study noted that 1.6 million yearly Chinese deaths are caused because of air pollution. This is equivalent to 17 percent of all deaths in China.
However on the dark side, the world is too poised to benefit if China’s coal feed continues, as China is a driving force behind global warming emissions. A study by the Global Carbon Project published last month found:
“rapid growth in global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry ceased in the past two years, despite continued economic growth.”
The report claimed that the shift in emission was because of China’s decreasing coal dependency.
There’s still a question if China is being honest and will go through with the plan as they have been known for skewing unsavory data. In addition, worker and environmental treatment will come into question upon the energy shift. Because reports have already suggested that dirty coal is leaving a legacy of unemployment and environment abuse.
Image: The Atlantic