Coal in Beijing

China is set to limit their domestic output and consumption of coal over the next five years in an effort to reduce pollution and curb the nation's reliance on this dirty energy. However there are serious question marks over the implementation and control of coal expansion.

The China National Energy Bureau held a press conference last week and released the Coal Industry 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015). According to the plan, coal production and use will reach 3.9 billion tons in 2015. However the National Bureau of Statistics say coal production and use is already over 3.5-3.7 billion tons in 2011Moreover, industry sources have indicated no signs of slowing down, projecting growth way over the 3.9 billion tons listed in the 12th five year plan.

This places the 3.9 billion limit into a strange light. It is by no means a small amount of coal use, but compared to the past this is a significant change. If the central government truly wants to implement a fast slowdown of coal use, during the next years, this target will have to be accompanied by an implementation package.

Another question we should pose is in regards to after 2015. Will there be new growth? Or is this target set to be ignored, missed and then revised in 13th five year plan?

 "The 3.9 billion tons coal consumption limit isn't ambitious in the first place, and with the large mining capacity planned and new coal plants in the pipeline all across the countries,  it's likely that China may not even be able to meet this goal," Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaign Head Li Yan said.

"By allowing the country to burn hundreds of millions of tons more coal by 2015, PM 2.5 pollution will continue to be a big problem for the Chinese people. It also poses a severe challenge for both China and the global endeavor in fighting against climate change."

"The plan will also put unimaginable pressures on the fragile ecological system and water resources of China's western regions," adds Li Yan. "It's a dangerous move to expand into such water-intensive industries in those regions."

Image © Greenpeace / Natalie Behring

Short film: China: Coal takes more than it gives.