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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Beijing to Phase Out Coal


Local authorities in Beijing announced that the city will ban coal sales and use by 2020 to reduce air pollution, Xinhua News Agency reports.

Six Beijing districts will stop using coal and will close coal-fired power plants by 2020. Coal use is expected to drop to less than 10 percent by 2017. Other fossil fuels, including fuel oil, will also be banned.

Coal burning accounts for 22.4 percent of Beijing’s PM 2.5, small airborne particles that contribute to smog. Coal use also accounted for 25.4 percent of Beijing’s energy use in 2012.

The main driver for coal reduction is air pollution, which is notoriously bad in Beijing. Back in February the Guardian reported that Beijing spent a week “blanketed in a dense pea-soup smog.” Beijing’s concentration of PM 2.5 particles rose to 505 micrograms, far above the 25 micrograms the World Health Organization recommends as a safe level.

In 2013, 92 percent of Chinese cities didn’t meet national ambient air quality standards, and coal burning is responsible for almost half of China’s overall PM 2.5 pollution.

China is the world’s biggest energy consumer and leading greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter, according to a Greenpeace report. In 2013, coal accounted for 65 percent of the country’s overall energy use, which makes it the most coal-dependent country among top energy users.

China accounts for almost half of the world’s coal use, and its dependence on the dirty fuel increased steadily in recent years: Its coal use and emissions grew an average of 9 percent a year from 2000 to 2010. In 2010, China’s increase in coal-fired power generation capacity equaled Germany’s existing generating capacity.

Last September, China’s State Council released an “Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan,” which acknowledged that tackling air pollution will require significant reductions in coal use. Specific coal use targets in provincial action plans accompanied the report and included coal consumption caps for several provinces. Many provinces have already committed to reducing coal use by 2017.

“No other major coal consuming country has ever implemented such rapid changes in their coal policies,” the Greenpeace report states.

While coal use is decreasing, China is undergoing a rapid renewable energy expansions. In 2012 China’s wind power production increased more than coal-fired power production. China installed more power solar panels last year than any other country, and the amount installed was more than China added in all the years before 2013 combined. By the end of 2013, China made the list of countries leading the world in total installed renewable power capacity, a Renewables 2014 Global Status Report revealed. China topped the list for non-hydropower capacity, surpassing the U.S.

Image credit: Bobak

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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