air pollution

Beijing to ban coal

A coal storage area in Beijing. Photo credit: kafka4prez via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

City officials in Beijing have taken one of the most radical steps to deal with the ongoing air pollution problems in China’s capital city.

Chinese state media are saying that Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau are rolling out a law that would effectively ban the use of coal by 2020. In the city districts Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai and Shijingshan, all coal use would be stopped by 2020.

This will mean coal power plants would have to be shut down and new cleaner electricity generation would have to be installed. This is no mean feat as in 2012 a quarter of Beijing’s electricity usage was being met by coal.

Last year the World Health Organisation warned that pollution in China was a health crisis. People in Beijing and many other cities in China are increasingly becoming angry and frustrated about the rise of air pollution in China’s largest cities which has led to many demonstrations and uprisings; this has made it one of the highest priorities for the Chinese government.

Of the roughly 21 million people estimated to be living in Beijing Municipal, switching off their coal use will do very little to wean China’s 1.3 billion people off coal. But it’s likely that the Beijing project could be mirrored by China’s other mega-cities if proven successful.

While this will not prove a quick fix for Beijing’s air pollution issues, if Beijing were to wean itself off coal by 2020 that clean revolution will need to start today, so the people of Beijing could start to feel the effects gradually.

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

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