Pollution in Beijing Copyright Kevin Frayer,Getty Images

China to Cap Coal Use at 4.2 Billion Tons by 2020

Nov. 21, 2014
Beijing will also attempt to limit coal to providing 62% of its energy by 2020, with renewable and nuclear sources adding 15%.

As Beijing faces growing public anger at air pollution largely caused by coal consumption, as well as international pressure to slow the growth of its greenhouse gas emissions, it announced on November 21 that it aims to cap its annual coal use at 4.2 billion tons by 2020. This is a one-sixth increase on current consumption, already by far the world's largest.

Beijing will also attempt to limit coal to providing 62% of its energy by 2020, with renewable and nuclear sources adding 15%, the State Council said.

Coal provides 69% of energy currently, according to state media.

China's coal consumption reached 3.6 billion tons last year, the official news agency Xinhua said citing the National Coal Association (NCA) -- almost as much as the rest of the world combined.

The 2020 target -- a 16% increase on 2013 -- is in line with recent predictions by the NCA, an industry group.

China is the world's biggest producer of the greenhouse gases which cause climate change, and the announcement of the coal goal comes after President Xi Jinping last week pledged a target to cap carbon dioxide emissions "around 2030."

But Beijing faces spiraling demand for power to fuel its economic growth, and is opening a new coal-fired power plant every week according to environmental campaign group Greenpeace.

Northern China -- home to heavy industry which relies on coal power -- has been afflicted by chronic air pollution for years, which is estimated to have led to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

Faced with mounting public anger about the issue, provinces surrounding Beijing have vowed to cut coal use, but analysts say such measures have resulted in the most polluting facilities being shifted to China's relatively underdeveloped west.

Coal, gas and oil are the main source of global carbon emissions but also the backbone of the world's energy supply.

A UN climate panel warned this month that if current trends continue, the Earth is probably on a trajectory to warm at least 4 C over pre-industrial times by 2100 -- a recipe for increasing drought, flood, rising seas and species extinctions.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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