China Is Banning New Coal Mines and the United States Should Do the Same

by Diana Best

January 5, 2016

China has taken a bold new step to address pollution and oversupply issues plaguing the country’s energy market: a three-year ban on new coal mines.

Powder River Basin Mines in Wyoming

Coal mining takes place in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming on federally owned land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

© Mitchell Wenkus / Greenpeace

Starting this year, the country will suspend all new permit applications for coal mines for the next three years. In addition, officials also announced that they plan to close approximately 1,000 coal mines throughout the country, taking away more than 60 million metric tons of excess coal supply — unneeded as China moves to decrease its reliance on coal.

President Obama Should Take Note

While the Obama administration has taken important steps to burn less coal as a key step to reduce pollution and address climate change, there has not yet been any meaningful effort to stop approving coal mine expansions. Coal mine expansions are rubber-stamped even when mining companies are aiming to export our coal abroad.

Why is the Obama administration’s Interior Department continuing to approve more mining for coal we don’t need and can’t afford to burn?

China and the United States are the two largest coal producing nations. Both made promises in the lead up to last month’s Paris talks to address the serious threat of climate change by taking measures in their own countries to cut emissions and move toward a clean energy future. It is clear that China is taking an important step to follow through on that promise by stopping new coal mines and the expansion of coal production. The United States should do the same.

In fact, following the climate talks, Greenpeace joined other groups in asking that the Obama administration reject or pause 25 pending federal coal leases, which combined total more than 2.5 billion tons of publicly owned coal.

President Obama should use his last year in office to effectively put measures in place that keep fossil fuels in the ground. Joining China in banning new coal mine permits could be a step on the long road toward a climate-safe future.

Take action today: tell President Obama that climate leadership means keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Diana Best

By Diana Best

Diana Best is a senior climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace USA, based in Denver, Colorado. She began working with Greenpeace in 2008 on federal climate legislation and has since worked on reforming federal fossil fuel leasing programs and fighting new infrastructure projects around the United States. She is currently leading Greenpeace’s “Hold the Line” work aimed at halting the political and social influence of the oil industry during Trump’s administration.

We Need Your Voice Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.