Airpocalypses not withstanding, China is continuing to take the lead in the global fight against climate change, announcing that plans for 104 proposed coal power plants in the country will be halted.
In total, these projects are worth some 430 billion yuan ($62 billion) with a combined installed capacity of 120 gigawatts. They were to built in 11 different provinces and regions, mostly in China’s northwestern region. Some of the plants were already under construction, others were only in the planning stage, the National Energy Administration announced on Monday.
Putting over 100 heavy-polluting coal plants on hold seems to be just what the doctor ordered for China’s grey skies and its choking population. Each winter, the coal furnaces get switched on, causing a heavy layer of toxic haze to consume cities across the country.
Recently, the Chinese government has made some big promises about shifting its heavy reliance on fossil fuels, coal in particular, toward more renewable sources of energy. In its latest Five Year Plan, Beijing vowed to eliminate or delay at least 150 coal power projects between 2016 and 2020.
A report last September from CoalSwarm, a climate activist group that tracks coal power projects across the world, found that the total amount of coal-fired power capacity in the early planning stages had dropped by 14% from the previous year with China accounting for nearly three-fourths of that difference.
Of course, China isn’t suspending coal power plants simply to help the environment. The country is currently facing a coal overcapacity crisis that threatens the economies of its “Rust Belt” provinces. Industrial overcapacity built up over the previous two decades has led to many bloated state-owned enterprises operating at a loss, or sometimes just not operating at all. In March, thousands of coal workers took to the street in Heilongjiang to protest against unpaid wages with banners reading: “We must live, we must eat” and “CCP pay us our money.”
“Stopping under-construction projects seems wasteful and costly, but spending money and resources to finish these completely unneeded plants would be even more wasteful,” Greenpeace said in response to China’s latest announcement.
One way or another, will China turn itself into the “hero of the environmental movement” that Leonardo DiCaprio thinks it can be?
[Images via Tencent]
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