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As UN Warns Earth Reaching 'Point of No Return', China Ramps Up Coal Production

12-02-2019
Coal industry

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the world's efforts to stop climate change have been "utterly inadequate" and that global warming could pass what he called the "point of no return." Guterres made those remarks Sunday before the start today of a two- week international climate conference in Madrid, Spain. 

There's a lot of disagreement about whether so-called climate change is a manmade problem. Critics say there's not enough evidence to prove that humans are changing the atmosphere as opposed to other factors like solar cycles since the sun is the source of earth's heat.

Many climate activists are trying to get the US and other western countries to cut carbon emissions, but that would do little to change what's happening in developing countries.

For example, the conference comes as China is doubling down on its support for coal. China burns about half the coal used around the world every year and reports indicate it will build new coal plants in the next few years that can generate as much power as the entire European Union.

As China's economy slows to the lowest level in a quarter-century — around 6% growth, according to government statistics — policymakers are doubling down on support for coal and other heavy industries, the traditional backbones of China's energy system and economy. 

At the same time, China's investments in renewable energy have dropped almost 40 percent this year from a year ago. 

"We are witnessing many contradictions in China's energy development," said Kevin Tu, a Beijing-based fellow with the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. "It's the largest coal market and the largest clean energy market in the world."

Last week in Beijing, China's vice minister of ecology and environment told reporters that non-fossil-fuel sources already account for 14.3% of the country's energy mix. He did not indicate that China would embrace more stringent targets soon.

"We are still faced with challenges of developing our economy, improving people's livelihood," Zhao Yingmin said.

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