The world’s largest producer and consumer of coal is shutting down mines by the hundreds. China plans to shut 1,000 coal mines in 2016, its National Energy Administration has confirmed.
Until recently, the country enjoyed staggering rates of growth, made possible by burning billions of tons of coal. But now China is turning its back on the fossil fuel in an effort to clean up dangerous pollution in cities and embrace cleaner sources of energy.
China is far and away the largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, accounting for almost 30 percent of global emissions. For that reason, what happens in China really, really matters. That’s why it’s so important that China and the United States presented a strong united front heading into the Paris climate change negotiations late last year.
And when it comes to the coal industry, China is the only player with any real sway. The country mines almost half of the world’s coal. And with Chinese demand slumping, so too are coal prices. That means more layoffs and mine closures. The Chinese coal industry is lobbying the government for a price floor, which would slow the bleeding but also artificially prop up the industry.
For now, it seems the government is more interested in shifting jobs to other industries, which is great news for the planet. If the government succeeds in its goal of reducing annual production by 500 million tons, that will result in almost a billion tons less CO2 in the atmosphere — equivalent to all the emissions produced annually in Germany or Brazil. That’s a breath of fresh air.