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Greenpeace reports China’s carbon dioxide emissions are rising at their fastest pace in seven years. China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, and Greenpeace’s analysis of China’s official data shows carbon dioxide emissions in the country rose 4 per cent in the first quarter of 2018, the fastest increase since 2011.
China’s emissions are rising as a result of growing demand for oil and gas due to increased car ownership and rising use of coal for electricity. China’s government approved new coal-fired power plants in four new provinces in mid-May of this year.
After three years of relative stagnation in the economy and a corresponding decline in emissions, China’s emissions began to rise again in the second quarter of 2016.
As part of its effort to power economic growth while reducing China’s trade deficit with the United States, the Chinese government has indicated it plans to buy more American coal.
In June, China pledged to increase purchases of U.S. energy and agricultural goods as a way to reduce its $375 billion trade deficit and defuse an escalating trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. China’s action will help President Donald Trump satisfy two pledges: to reduce the trade deficit with China and to revive the coal industry, which declined significantly during the presidency of Barack Obama.
China produces, uses, and imports more coal than any other nation. Although U.S. coal exports to China grew in 2017, they make up only a small percentage of China’s coal imports. Most of the 3.2 million short tons sold to China in 2017 was metallurgical coal used to make steel. (Chinese steel production set new records in 2017.) The total value of U.S. coal exported to China last year was about $395 million.
The U.S. more than doubled coal exports to Asia in 2017 to 32.8 million tons, with total overseas shipments rising 61 percent from 2016 to 2017. With China’s decision to import more coal from the United States, the industry’s fortunes should continue to improve, though as I have noted previously, growth in exports could be constrained if state governments do not approve construction of additional export terminals and expansion of existing facilities. That poses another challenge to Trump’s goal of improving the coal industry’s fortunes.
Greenpeace warns if these trends continue it will be impossible for China to cap its greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 as it committed to do in the Paris climate agreement.