Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bluer Skies? Beijing Picks Up Pace in Cutting Dependency on Coal

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bluer Skies? Beijing Picks Up Pace in Cutting Dependency on Coal

Article excerpt

Blue skies in Beijing were a welcome surprise today for the residents of Gaobeidian, a migrant neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.

Gaobeidian sits near the smokestacks and cooling towers of an 845- megawatt power plant, the last coal-fired plant operating in the Chinese capital. Billowing smoke forms a hazy backdrop as children play and women hang clothes out to dry.

"This kind of weather is rare in Beijing," says Cheng Hui, a housewife with two sons under four. She's happy to hear that the plant will soon close, especially so her sons can stop breathing the hazardous air pollution.

China relies on coal for 66 percent of its energy use. But Beijing plans to close this plant next year, leaving it as a relic of the country's energy use amid its headlong economic growth. Plans are to refurbish the Gaobeidian plant to burn natural gas.

"It will be better for everyone," says Ms. Cheng.

Biggest emitterShuttering the plant is a small but symbolic step in China's $6.6 trillion push to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 2030, a plan it says it will begin in earnest after 2020.

On Tuesday, Beijing committed to a set of wide-ranging goals in anticipation of an international deal on climate change that governments hope to reach later this year in Paris. Reducing coal use is at the center of its pledge.

China's economic boom has depended on the carbon-rich fossil fuel. The country's coal consumption and GDP in the first decade of this century followed parallel growth of about 9 percent to 10 percent per year.

Coal has also led China to become the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. In 2013, some 29 percent of the world's carbon emissions came from China - twice the amount released by the United States, the second largest polluter.

But public concern about air pollution has pushed China to cut its use of coal, which fell nearly 3 percent in 2014, the first drop in more than a decade.

The sudden decline has led some analysts to speculate that China's carbon emissions could peak sooner than 2030. …

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