In January, just two months after Xi Jinping and Barack Obama jointly pledged to limit carbon emissions, it was reported that China’s coal production had fallen 2.1% in 2014—the first decline that coal-reliant China has seen this century. At Greenpeace’s Energy Desk, Lauri Myllyvitra reports on official data showing a continued decline in coal use over the past four months, and explains how this has resulted in a significant cut in carbon emissions:
The data – which comes months before crucial climate talks in Paris – means China has cut emissions during the first four months of the year by roughly the same amount as the total carbon emissions of the United Kingdom over the same period.
[…] An analysis of the data by Greenpeace/Energydesk China suggests coal consumption in the world’s largest economy fell by almost 8% and CO2 emissions by around 5% in the first four months of the year, compared with the same period in 2014.
[…] If the reduction continues until the end of the year, it will be the largest recorded year-on-year reduction in coal use and CO2 in any country. […] [Source]
This news comes on the tail of recent studies showing that China’s 1990-2016 total greenhouse gas emissions are still set to surpass those of the U.S. in the same time period.
At The Wall Street Journal, Abheek Bhattacharya takes a wider look at energy reforms in China and how they stand to further reduce coal production:
What’s clearer is that generators using dirty coal will be thrown to the market lions. That almost surely will force down coal-power tariffs. For instance, tariffs in southern Guangdong province have slumped less than 10% since 2011, according to data from Credit Suisse’s Dave Dai, while coal prices globally have halved.
[…] That’s bad news for coal-fired plants, which generate three-quarters of China’s electricity and already bear the brunt of the industrial downturn.Total electricityproduction in the first four months of 2015 was up just 0.2% from the same period in 2014, one of the lowest readings in the past five years. On top of that, coal-fired capacity utilization last year fell to its lowest level in 38 years, says Mr. Dai.
If Beijing is serious about reform, it could shutter unneeded coal-generation capacity. In that scenario, companies that operate small plants and suffer higher costs, such as Huaneng Power International, will get hit. […] [Source]
At Quartz, Gwynn Guilford looks at how China’s economic slowdown and shift to natural gas has helped to reduce coal consumption, but also warns that a slow shift to synthetic natural gas could offset emission wins to date, and outlines further environmental strain that an increase in shale production could entail:
Hitting that coal target sounds like unambiguously great news for the warming atmosphere and acidifying oceans. But China’s natural gas sources might not be as CO2-reducing as is often assumed. One possible domestic source of natural gas, synthetic natural gas (SNG), would reduce visible air pollution—the grey, soupy skies that are a source of popular outrage and, potentially, a threat to Communist Party stability. But SNG would likely spew out vastly more CO2 than coal-burning does.This shift could also come with other new costs. Both SNG and expansion of China’s shale industry could perilously strain water resources. China’s dam-building bonanza has hidden risks, too. Reservoirs created by hyrdoelectric dams have been linked to upticks in seismic activity, including the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, which killed 80,000 people. As China embraces new sources of power, a slew of priorities—diplomatic, political, environmental, social, economic—will finally start emerging from the coal-burning haze. [Source]