The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
China says it will not approve any new coal mines for the next three years. The country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) says more than 1,000 existing mines will also be closed over the coming year, reducing total coal production by 70 million tons.
Analysts say this is the first time Beijing has put a ban on the opening of new mines: the move has been prompted both by falling demand for coal as a result of a slowing economy and by increasing public concern about hazardous levels of pollution, which have blanketed many cities across the country over recent months.
Beijing, a city of nearly 20 million, issued two red smog alerts—the most serious air pollution warning—in December, causing schools to close and prompting a warning to residents to stay indoors.
A 2015 study estimated that air pollution—much of it from the widespread burning of coal—contributed to up to 1.6 million deaths each year in China.
The country is by far the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel. Emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial concerns in China have made it the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, putting more climate-changing gases into the atmosphere each year than the U.S. and the European Union combined.
Coal’s Share Falling
In 2010, coal generated about 70 percent of China’s total energy: last year that figure dropped to 64 percent as more large-scale investments in renewable energy sources came on stream.
Whether or not that decline in coal use will be speedy or ambitious enough to head off serious national and international climate change is not clear.
There are also questions about whether the coal-mining regions of China—predominantly in the north of the country—will ever recover from the environmental devastation inflicted on them.
Vast swathes of land in Shanxi province, once the main coal production area, have been destroyed by mining: air and water pollution has caused a health crisis in many regions.
The province of Inner Mongolia—bigger than France and Spain combined—is now the main area for coal, accounting for about 25 percent of China’s total production, most of it through open-cast mining. Copper, lead and uranium are also mined in the province.
Indigenous groups of nomadic herders say their lands are being destroyed and water sources poisoned by mining, with ponds full of toxins littering the countryside.
Concerns have also been raised about vast uranium deposits found near coal-mining areas. China’s fast-growing nuclear industry has complained that vital uranium deposits might be contaminated by coal mining: others fear that uranium-contaminated coal could be being burned in power stations, showering radioactive dust on the surrounding countryside and its inhabitants.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The Parties to CITES agreed to list giraffes on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today at the World Wildlife Conference or CoP18 in Geneva. Such protections will ensure that all giraffe parts trade were legally acquired and not sourced from the poached giraffes trade and will require countries to make non-detriment findings before allowing giraffe exports. The listing will also enable the collection of international trade data for giraffes that might justify greater protections at both CITES and other venues in the future.
The WHO stressed that more research is needed on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion. luchschen / iStock / Getty Images Plus
The UN's health agency on Thursday said that microplastics contained in drinking water posed a "low" risk at their current levels.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) — in its first report on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion — also stressed more research was needed to reassure consumers.
'This is a Sick Statement': Brazil’s Bolsonaro, Under Pressure for Anti-Environmental Policies, Blames NGOs for Record Amazon Fires
'Work Together' or 'Destroy it': Goldman Prize Winner Francia Márquez on World's Second Deadliest Country For Environmental Activists
In April 2018, Afro-Colombian activist Francia Márquez won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, thanks to her work to retake her community's ancestral territories from illegal gold mining. However, her international recognition comes at a very risky price.
By Stuart Braun
A year after activist Greta Thunberg first stood in the rain outside the Swedish parliament with her now iconic "Skolstrejk för klimatet" — school strike for the climate — placard, the movement she spawned has set the tone for environmental protest action around the world.
Toy maker Hasbro wants to play in the eco-packaging game. The board game giant will ditch its plastic packaging by 2022. The move means that games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Operation will no longer have shrink wrap, window sheets, plastic bags or elastic bands, as the Associated Press reported.