Summary: The headlines report almost nothing but bad news about climate change as journalists exaggerate much of the bad news and mute much of the good news. Here is an example of wonderful news — from China, the top source of global pollution growth — about another step in the world’s shift away from coal. It deserves attention.
Those horrific forecasts of our future climate describe different effects, but have a common source: the RCP8.5 scenario, worst of the four used in the IPCC’s AR5 report. It describes a future in which many things go wrong, especially rapid population growth and slow tech progress, so that coal become the major fuel of the late 21st century — as it was of the late 19th C.
Much of the world has been shifting away from coal at an accelerating rate, so that coal prices are collapsing and coal companies are going bankrupt. Even in China, long the top coal growth story. There are indications that coal use has begun to decline in China. They’re rapidly closing older plants, major sources of the toxic clouds over their cities (Beijing has shut all of its coal-fired plants) — and the mines that feed them (1,000 in 2016, 4300 over 3 years). Now comes even better news about policy changes China’s government has made to further this wonderful trend.
Excerpt from an article at the World Resources Institute
China has emerged as a leader in renewable energy. Investment soared from $39 billion to $111 billion in just 5 years, while electric capacity for solar power grew 168-fold and wind power quadrupled. Actual renewable energy utilization also grew. The total share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption increased from 8.3% in 2010 to 12% in 2015, beating the country’s target of 11.4% and putting China well on track to meet its Copenhagen pledge to reach 15% by 2020 and Paris commitment to reach 20% by 2030.
In the last two months, China’s government has thrown three punches to tackle the problem.
The central government has ordered 13 provinces to suspend coal-fired power plant approvals in the current pipeline, and another 15 provinces to delay new construction of projects that have already been approved, according to media reports.
The government has also set up an on-going early warning mechanism to anticipate and discourage local decisions that may exacerbate coal power plant overcapacity in the future. Projecting to 2019, the government has issued a “red alert” for 28 provinces (in Chinese), asking local authorities to suspend approval and companies to reconsider investment.
By curbing the development of new coal power plants, the dominant source of fossil fuel electricity in China, the government aims to prevent destructive competition with renewables.