søndag 17. oktober 2021

China, coal and COP26: can the world’s biggest emitter give up its dirty habit?

When he was a little boy in the 1980s, Wang Xiaojun was taught to be proud of his home town of Lüliang in the north-western Chinese province of Shanxi. Shanxi is China’s biggest coal-producing region, and Lüliang was a significant base for the army during the second world war.

Nestled in the mountains of the dusty Loess Plateau, Lüliang, a city of 3.4 million people, has had less to shout about in recent years. A series of corruption scandals in the city brought down several high profile officials shortly after President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013; there are concerns over the high number of babies born with congenital defects, blamed by experts on air pollution; and, last week, a huge flood forced coal mines to close just as China scrambles to tackle its energy crunch.

Coal is the main source of power generation in China, but Xi has vowed to change that. The country has been the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions for more than a decade now. A year ago, Xi pledged his country’s carbon emissions would peak by 2030, then achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Last month, he announced China would stop building new coal-fired projects overseas in a move that analysts say could be pivotal in tackling global emissions.