China to end new coal mines, US BLM continues new leases

Beijing, China (TFC) — Last week the Chinese National Energy Administration announced a moratorium on new coal mines, planned to last for at least three years. The decision in Beijing was based on massive stockpiles of coal and an overproduction of renewable energies. Nur Bekri, the director of China’s National Energy Administration, said:

“with production overcapacity expected to last for quite some time, green and low-carbon forms of energy will be the main focus of the 13th Five Year Plan”

Despite this, coal currently produces 80% of China’s electricity output. It should be noted that Chinese state media places that number at 64%. Forecasts from Minerals Council of Australia state:

“The International Energy Agency expects that coal will continue to dominate China’s energy mix to 2035, and that ‘China continues to import substantial amounts of coal, remaining a strong force in global coal markets’.”

Image Source: oatsy40, Flickr, Creative Commons Coal

Image Source: oatsy40, Flickr, Creative Commons

This decision comes on the heels of the 2014 decision to close more than 1,700 small-scale coal mines. While this was announced, it is nearly impossible to measure compliance because Chinese state press is notoriously unreliable.

Nathaniel Shoaff, Staff Attorney with the Sierra Club, took the opportunity to point out the Bureau of Land Management’s use of public land, and said:

“China’s recent decision to halt approvals of new coal mines is an important next step in addressing global climate change as well as the country’s air pollution crisis. At the same time, the United States Bureau of Land Management continues to regularly approve new coal mines on public lands as part of a leasing program that accounts for more than half of all carbon pollution from fossil fuels extracted on federal lands.

“The federal coal leasing program undermines President Obama’s international leadership on climate change, and holds our nation back from making progress on air quality. We should join China’s lead and implement a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands, as well as reform the existing program to provide fair compensation to taxpayers for coal mined on our public lands.”