China’s pledge to cut coal emissions is impressive — but its ambitions remain ambitious

On Monday, the Chinese government promised to halt construction of coal-fired power plants around the world by 2030. It was a bold announcement — at first glance, any coal plant may feel like a pile …

On Monday, the Chinese government promised to halt construction of coal-fired power plants around the world by 2030. It was a bold announcement — at first glance, any coal plant may feel like a pile of smoke, but the targets are significant. According to the International Energy Agency, China produced around 50 percent of the world’s coal last year, and its coal consumption is on track to double by the end of the decade. If China were to give up its goal, some experts estimate that 4 percent of the world’s current coal usage would be scrapped. That would mark a substantial step backward, and an attempt to reverse three decades of devastating emissions growth.

If nothing else, the announcement is a lot more powerful symbol than real-world action. The Chinese government has pledged to cut carbon emissions by as much as 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, an ambitious target that includes massive investments in renewable energy. But that target hinges on China’s ability to reduce its overall emissions — which means more emissions elsewhere around the world. Which is why the next few years in China will be quite important.

If, for example, the United States pledged to cut its emissions by a comparable percentage, it would have to reduce its own per-capita coal consumption even faster than China’s target would require. And it also would need to work to cut its own emissions even more. (California and a handful of other states have embarked on their own carbon goals, and they hope to eventually even out the power mix in the United States by some measure.)

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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