Greenpeace Energydesk has published a great report on China’s increasingly ambitious efforts to deal with the huge environmental and health damage that coal burning causes:

” If implemented in full, the measures announced to date could put China’s emissions almost in line with a 2 degrees trajectory in 2020. And more action is still expected.”

Another key line from the report:

“Over half of global CO2 emission growth between 2002 and 2012 was due to increased coal burning in China.”

The promising scenario would be driven by action in twelve Chinese provinces accounting for 44% of the country’s total coal consumption. These provinces are mostly located along the coast and in the northern parts of the country. Another 17 provinces are considering measures to constrain or reduce the burning of coal.

The big question, of course, is whether or not these policies are actually implemented. In general, non-implementation and non-compliance with announced environmental measures plagues the world, and China is no exception. However, there are a few reasons to be optimistic. Coal’s effects on China’s population and, therefore, the economy, are nothing short of catastrophic. With an increasingly wealthy and educated workforce, I suspect that it makes no economic sense for China to continue these high levels of coal consumption.

A potential slowdown in China’s coal consumption puts the ball back to the court of the rest of the world. Can other emerging economies, especially India, grow prosperous without relying on more and more coal? Can the United States kick the coal addiction for good? We have a lot of work to do – let’s go and do it now.

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