China's Coal Addiction Causing Environmental Disaster
Beijing (AFP) Nov 6, 2006
China has seen a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade despite ratifying the Kyoto Protocol -- and the situation will only worsen as coal remains its main energy source. The nation is the world's second-largest emitter of climate change gases after the United States and the world's largest coal burner. But as a developing country it is not obliged to reduce emissions under the protocol.
About 70 percent of China's energy comes from burning the fossil fuel and with hundreds more coal-fired power plants being built -- often with old, heavy-polluting technology -- the situation is only going to deteriorate.
China last year built 117 government-approved coal-fired power plants -- a rate of roughly one every three days, according to official figures.
But even the central government conceded the real number was much higher, with local and provincial governments building many unauthorized coal plants in an effort to ensure economic growth steamed ahead.
A report issued by the International Energy Agency in July said that every two years China was adding new electricity capacity equivalent to that of the total annual output of France or Canada.
Correspondingly, China's coal production has more than doubled since 1990, from one billion tonnes to a forecast 2.16 billion tonnes this year, according to Chinese government and industry figures.
The massive amount of extra pollutants being pumped into the atmosphere has had predictable short-term impacts on the environment.
China's coal burning has put five of the nation's cities in the top 10 of most polluted cities in the world, the International Energy Agency report said.
"Acid rain falls on one-third of China's territory and one-third of the urban population breathes heavily polluted air. Poor air quality imposes a welfare cost of between three and eight percent of GDP," it said.
"China's power sector is the single largest culprit," responsible for an estimated 44 percent of sulphur dioxide emissions, 80 percent of nitrous oxide emissions, and 26 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, it said.
China has set goals for renewable energy to account for 16 percent of its overall energy production by 2020 and to increase energy efficiency per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent over the next four years.
But already there are signs that those targets are being missed, with energy per unit of GDP rising by 0.8 percent in the first half of the year, according to government figures.
Even if the government were to meet its target of 16 percent for renewable energy, coal would still remain overwhelmingly the biggest source of energy for China's fast modernizing population of 1.3 billion people.
"The Chinese government needs to correct their thinking on economic growth, they have to focus more on the environmental price they are paying for rapid economic growth," Yang Ailun, a renewable energy expert with Greenpeace China told AFP.
"We need to find other ways to decarbonize and still develop our economy. We can't burn so much fossil fuels."
Nevertheless, Bindu Lohani, head of sustainable development at the Asian Development Bank, told AFP that the Chinese government was well aware of the problems it was facing with regard to coal.
"They know that energy is very important and that coal is very important to the energy mix, so now they are trying to find better ways to use coal and are seeking advanced technology that will result in a cleaner output," he said.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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ESA Joins UN Climate Talks In Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya (SPX) Nov 07, 2006
The United Nations annual summit on climate change this week in Nairobi, Kenya, seeks to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol strategy, which becomes obsolete in 2012, to restrict emissions of heat-trapping gases that drive climate change. ESA joins the activities to share results of its satellite-based Kyoto-supporting services.
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