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China aims to cap coal as soon as 2020

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China has announced it could cap coal as early as 2020. Creative Commons: 2007

The world’s largest emitter has made its second major climate announcement in just two weeks.

After agreeing to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, Chinese officials announced Wednesday that China aims to cap its annual coal use at 4.2 billion tons by 2020.

China will also work to ensure that coal is not more than 62% of the country’s energy mix by that year.

For decades, China used to rely on a rapidly growing coal fleet to power its grid, while pioneering renewables.

But facing crippling air pollution and climate change impacts, the country’s latest announcement to cap coal follows other recent decisions to peak emissions and generate at least 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030—signalling a clear shift away from dirty coal.

Experts say Chinese coal consumption in 2020 could be even lower than today’s announcement suggests, given that recent statistics already hinted at a drop in coal consumption.

They also argue a tighter cap on coal would help with meeting the air quality targets the government had announced previously.

Justin Wu, lead energy analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said:

I’ve heard people say a new coal plant gets built every week [in China]. That’s probably still true. But for every coal plant that’s built, a lot more solar and wind are built as well, and a lot of old coal plants are probably shutting down, the less efficient ones.

Experts welcomed the announcement, but said China could be even more ambitious, given recent trends in coal consumption that already point downwards.

China’s announcements over the last two weeks are adding to the growing momentum for a global climate change agreement.

With hundreds of thousands of people worldwide calling for climate action, businesses and investors shifting billions into clean energy solutions, the Green Climate Fund nearing US $10 billion, and the next round of UN climate talks fast approaching, public pressure and political will for an international climate deal has never been higher.

Chinese inaction can no longer serve as an excuse for other countries to dodge their responsibilities.

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