Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

China Clamps Down on Coal

Climate

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.

The Great Wall of China at Badaling, 80 km from Beijing: The pollution hangs heavy. Photo credit: Robysan at the German language Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

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 accordance with an agreement reached with the U.S. in late 2014, and in line with pledges made at the recent Paris summit on climate change, China aims to radically cut back on coal use in future.

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.

Uranium Risk

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

3 New Years Resolutions That Will End the World’s Dependency on Fossil Fuels

10 Biggest Environmental News Stories of 2015

Paris Fails to Revive the Nuclear Dream

The Down-to-Earth Solution to Climate Change

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Oregano oil is an extract that is not as strong as the essential oil, but appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Peakpx / CC by 1.0

By Alexandra Rowles

Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.

However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meets Ronaldo Caiado, governor of the state of Goiás on June 5, 2020. Palácio do Planalto / CC BY 2.0

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has presided over the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak after the U.S., said Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Read More Show Less
Although natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, it is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Skitterphoto / PIxabay

By Emily Grubert

Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved two Lysol products as the first to effectively kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces, based on laboratory testing. Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveils the Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Judith Lewis Mernit

For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.

Read More Show Less
About 30,000 claims contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are currently unsettled. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hundreds of sudden elephant deaths in Botswana aren't just a loss for the ecosystem and global conservation efforts. Mario Micklisch / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Charli Shield

When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.

Read More Show Less