Here’s why China can’t be trusted to cut coal use, fight global warming

New York Times writer Eduardo Porter lays out the case for why environmentalists shouldn’t be so quick to believe China and other developing countries when they pledge to ditch coal-fired power: the stakes are too high.

Porter argues China’s economic success largely hinges on cheap, abundant Daily Caller  New Foundationenergy from coal-fired power plants, and even though China promised President Barack Obama it would “peak” emissions by 2030, it’s not clear they can be trusted to do so.

He writes:

The stakes are even larger in China. It is the world’s largest consumer of coal — burning as much as every other country combined. After years adding coal-­fired generators at breakneck speed, the government in Beijing finally acknowledged the public health costs and ordered limits on new construction.

Yet even as environmentalists welcome the decision as a watershed in the transition out of the world’s most polluting fuel, striking coal miners have taken to the streets, protesting unpaid wages and government plans to cut 1.3 million coal jobs out of a total of nearly six million to reduce overcapacity as the country’s growth slows.

There are several reasons to be skeptical about the world’s transition out of coal. Sure, official data suggest that the world’s production peaked in 2013. China’s coal consumption appears to have declined 3.3 percent last year. But experts note that despite the new limits, there are still lots of new coal-­fired generators being built.

To protect jobs and tax revenue from small coal mines, Chinese local governments have been known to fib when Beijing has demanded they stop producing coal. They stop reporting production numbers but don’t shut them down.

Porter echoes the concerns mainly brought up by Republican lawmakers who oppose Obama signing onto the United Nations global warming treaty. Obama plans on formally joining the treaty in September when he heads to China for the G20 summit.

China is expected to formally ratify the treaty as well, but experts have been criticizing China’s two-faced environmental policy for some time.

As Porter notes, China’s planned to crack down on pollution in its cities, in part, by using less coal. Yet China approved 155 new coal plants in 2015, and pumped $150 billion into new coal projects.

In fact, China’s coal capacity increased nearly 8 percent in 2015 — the year after they pledged to cut emissions.

On the other hand, China announced plans to shutter 1,000 coal mines in 2016. The country also laid off 1.8 million coal and steel workers due to overcapacity.

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This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller

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About the Author: Michael Bastasch

Michael Bastasch writes on energy, climate and the environment for the Daily Caller.

  • Frederick Colbourne

    “…why China can’t be trusted to cut coal use…”

    Look at it from China’s point of view. China is competing for standing on the world stage with the world’s only superpower, led by Mr Obama who insists he will cut fossil fuel use enough to reduce his country into just another world power.

    What’s not to like? China can promise the moon, the Sun too, because the 21st century will belong to China.

    This will happen, if and only if Mr Obama (and Mrs Clinton after him) succeed in dismantling the US economy, which they are promising to do to get the Green votes and Millennial votes.

    By the time the Greens and the Millennials wake up to confront the real world, it will be too late. One more generation is all China needs–20 years–say 2035.

  • Immortal600

    The AGW kooks who troll this site will have a hard time arguing with THIS article. Their narrow mindedness doesn’t allow them to understand the big picture but yet they think they have climate dynamics all figured out. What a joke.

    • Brin Jenkins

      China is pragmatic, and say what is needed. They probably feel that whilst coal produces smog any link to climate change is one to far. I’m going to Beijing in a few weeks and will judge this for myself, my son thinks that the useless wind turbines might be better utilised to turn with surplus power at night to blow away smog, the city has little experience of wind and think a breeze is exceptional like a whole gale in England.

  • Ian5

    Edouard Porter’s New York Times article is indeed worth a read. He also notes that:

    “Employment in American coal mines has been falling for decades, pushed more by market forces than environmental policy. The steep downturn of late is mainly because of a glut in the global steel market and extra-cheap natural gas.”