In six years, China’s capital won’t be using coal as an energy source. At least, that’s the plan, outlined earlier this week by Beijing bureaucrats, who hope the phase-out of coal will help clear the city’s smoggy skies. The AP reports:
Beijing’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau posted the plan on its website Monday, saying the city would instead prioritize electricity and natural gas for heating…The official Xinhua News Agency said coal accounted for a quarter of Beijing’s energy consumption in 2012 and 22 percent of the fine particles floating in the city’s air. Motor vehicles, industrial production and general dust also contributed to pollution in the 21 million-person city. […]In September, the government announced a prohibition on new coal-fired power plants around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Coal gets well-deserved flak for the greenhouse gases it emits when you burn it, but it’s also a tremendous polluter at the local scale. Beijing’s struggles with smog are well-documented, and the city’s reliance on coal for both heat and power are a big part of the problem. If the city can follow through on this proposed ban by 2020, the city’s resident’s could be breathing slightly cleaner air (we say slightly because pollution from coal is but one of many components of the toxic soup Beijing’s residents have to breathe).This doesn’t mean that China, as a country, is done with coal. It’s the cheapest source of baseload power, and China burns nearly half of the world’s supply. China’s leaders aren’t planning on phasing out coal altogether, but rather intend to be smarter about where they burn it, in order to cut down on pollution in its megacities.