China Endangers the Planet in the Name of Cleaner Air
Last month, China’s top climate negotiator reportedly said that his country could announce a cap on carbon emissions post-2020 as early as next year. However, according to a new report from Greenpeace, China will undo any progress in climate mitigation if it embarks upon an expansion of coal-to-gas plants. Although there are only two such plants, which convert coal into synthetic natural gas, currently in operation in China, 50 projects have been proposed, with several under construction already. The interest in coal-to-gas plants has been driven by the need to address the crisis of air pollution in the rapidly urbanizing country. But this approach to solving one problem only exacerbates another: the energy-intensive nature of coal-to-gas plants makes them more carbon-emitting than using coal directly, as bad as coal is for the climate. Coal-to-gas plants are particularly carbon-intensive: 85% of lifecycle emissions for coal-to-gas come from the conversion process itself. Climate change is a quintessentially global problem, one requiring global solutions, and all countries need to make sure that they aren’t taking steps at home that undermine the commitments they make abroad.