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Beijing Cut Coal Use By 7 Percent, Proving Intentions

The Chinese capital of Beijing has been making a lot of noise of late with regards to fighting their well-publicized pollution levels.

In the past week alone, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua has revealed that the country will ban coal by 2020 in six inner-city Beijing districts; that China will ban the sale and import of “high-ash and high-sulfur coal from September 1”; and the latest piece of news, which goes a long way to proving the country’s intentions, announced that Beijing cut coal use in the first half of 2014 by 7%.

The move combats not only international pressure to literally clean up their act, but also mitigates public pressure to clean up Beijing’s notorious air pollution levels — which many will remember from the near-comical experiences during the Beijing Olympics.

Reuters reported the news from the official Xinhua news agency, the state press agency of the country. They note that the city has already started to close or relocate hundreds of factories and industrial plants, and is looking at introducing a congestion charge after already raising vehicle fuel standards.

Earlier this year, Xinhua reported that the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) had adopted revisions to the Environmental Protection Law, announcing that China had “declared war” against pollution “and pledged to fight it with the same determination the country battled poverty”.

After decades of negligible action towards their own impact on the environment, it would have been easy to dismiss China’s intentions as simply more lip service to placate the international community. However, the reality is much different. Time and time again China has announced sweeping shifts to their energy use — putting a lot of emphasis on developing one of the world’s premiere solar manufacturing industries.

Xinhua announced last week that the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau intends to ban coal use in six inner-city districts by 2020, and replace it with clean energy. At the same time the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced that they would be banning the sale and import of high-ash and high-sulfur coal from September 1 this year.

It is also forbidden to sell sub-standard coal to individuals and organizations in areas where the burning of highly polluting fuels is not allowed, the NDRC said in a statement (via Xinhua again).

Less than a day later and Xinhua again reported that the head of the National Energy Administration had said China is aiming to install 13 GW worth of PV solar power in 2014 — a number that is, given China’s recent solar record, completely feasible.

This news comes at the same time as Australia is waiting for the hammer to drop on their own Renewable Energy Target, a move that will shatter the country’s already mediocre renewable energy industry. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has recently been quoted as backing coal as Australia’s future major-energy source, and one can only wonder what world we are living in where China is making environmental decisions that put Australia to shame.

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