For the first time in more than ten years, China’s annual coal production fell in 2014 as the country saw a supply glut. Now, Beijing is instituting a moratorium on new coal mines in its eastern provinces. The FT reports:
Production fell, for the first time in a decade, by 2.5 per cent last year from 3.7bn tonnes in 2013, according to China’s Coal Industry Association. That, plus a steep drop in imports, indicate that apparent coal consumption in China fell in 2014. […]Total Chinese power output rose 3.2 per cent last year from a year earlier, the slowest since 1998, while steel production increased just 0.9 per cent, the slowest expansion since 1981. Steel usage in China contracted outright last year for the first time since 1995.
Purely on the facts, this is good news for Gaia. China consumes nearly half of the world’s coal, which is just about the dirtiest fossil fuel—both in terms of local pollutants and greenhouse gas emission—around. Any break in Beijing’s rising consumption of the power source will be welcomed by Chinese urbanites and global greens alike.That said, this should not be read as a move made by Beijing purely out of a deep abiding concern for the planet’s health. Slow growth in coal-intensive industries coupled with concern over possible civil unrest in its megacities has motivated China to announce this moratorium.