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US, China Formally Join Paris Climate Agreement

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping

The two biggest greenhouse gas emitters in the world have formally joined the Paris climate agreement.

Shortly after China adopted the agreementU.S. President Barack Obama today made the announcement that the U.S. had followed suit while he was in Hangzhou, China, ahead of this weekend's G20 summit. Together, the U.S. and China are responsible for some 38.76 percent of global emissions.

At Federal Energy Conference, Forecasts Predict Bright Future for Fossil Fuels

This year’s annual Energy Information Administration conference started off on a somewhat positive note with a presentation by Dr. John Holdren, the Obama administration director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Holdren was clear in his presentation that the risks of climate change are real and deserve urgent action. 

He noted estimates of 15 feet of sea level rise being baked in with warming of only 2 degrees Celsius — a target that clearly will be difficult to meet. He commented on the following slide of predicted fossil fuel consumption growth as “very striking” and noted that “There really is no time to lose in shrinking emissions.”

More Money Invested in Renewable Energy in 2015 Than New Fossil Fuel Power Projects

A record US$367 billion was invested in renewable energy in 2015, according to a new report out today by the Clean Energy Canada initiative of the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University.

Renewables investment increased by seven percent since 2014, with China, the US, and Japan representing more than half of the total investment last year, shows the report.

The report also finds that for the first time, more money was invested in clean energy than in new power from fossil fuel ($253bn).

US Solar Jobs Double As Clean Energy Continues Explosive Growth Around The World

Renewable energy continued its explosive growth in 2015 — and I don’t mean explosive like an oil train accident.

A new global record was set last year with the investment of $328.9 billion in clean energy. That edged out the previous high mark, set in 2011, by 3 percent, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Coal Mining's Financial Failures: Two Thirds of World's Production Now Unprofitable

Sixty-five percent of the world's coal production is unprofitable at today's prices, a new research report by Wood Mackenzie, a commercial intelligence company often cited by investment analysts and the coal industry itself, concluded.

Both major types of coal — the coking coal used for making steel and the thermal coal burned in coal-fired electrical power plants — were included in Wood Mackenzie's analysis. The estimate may be conservative, as the group excluded some costs incurred during mining, and focused primarily on the sharp drop in the price of coal.

Is Saudi Arabia The Big Bad Wolf Of The Paris Climate Talks?

BY KYLA MANDEL AND BRENDAN MONTAGUE IN PARIS

Oil rich Saudi Arabia is leading a campaign to sabotage attempts by countries on the front line of climate change to include an ambitous 1.5C target for global warming in the COP21 agreement currently being negotiated in Paris. 

Wealthy nations - including Germany, France and now the United States - have all signalled support for including references to the lower target in the final text, as negotiators reach the end of the first week of negotiations.

The oil producing giant last night blocked efforts to include references in the Paris deal to a UN report that says it would be better to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels rather than the current 2C target.

How Fracking Changed the Economics of Oil Production Around the World

James Meadway, chief economist at the New Economics Foundation, explains the interrelated economics behind China’s 'Black Monday' stock market crash, Middle Eastern oil and US fracking.

The 'fracking revolution' has transformed the economics of oil production globally, with the US becoming a bigger producer than Saudi Arabia and – after decades of dependency on oil imports – even being able to export some of its surplus production.

US shale oil is unusual, too, in being privately owned: most of the world’s oil reserves (over 70 percent) are in state hands. Like the North Sea 30 years ago, in a world dominated by state-owned companies and publicly owned reserves, US shale could look like a new frontier for private operators on the search for fat profits.

Biomass Is Not A Zero-Carbon Fuel Source, So Why Does The Clean Power Plan Propose To Treat It That Way?

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is the foundation of President Obama’s climate strategy. The plan, which is to be finalized later this year, sets state-by-state targets for reducing emissions from existing power plants, especially coal-fired power plants, which will be essential to meeting the commitments made in the climate deal President Obama struck with China late last year.

China’s Disastrous Pollution Problem Is A Lesson For All

V.T. Polywoda via Flickr CC

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Beijing’s 21 million residents live in a toxic fog of particulate matter, ozone, sulphur dioxide, mercury, cadmium, lead and other contaminants, mainly caused by factories and coal burning. Schools and workplaces regularly shut down when pollution exceeds hazardous levels. People have exchanged paper and cotton masks for more elaborate, filtered respirators. Cancer has become the leading cause of death in the city and throughout the country.

Chinese authorities, often reluctant to admit to the extent of any problem, can no longer deny the catastrophic consequences of rampant industrial activity and inadequate regulations. According to Bloomberg News, Beijing’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that, although life expectancy doubled from 1949 to 2011, “the average 18-year-old Beijinger today should prepare to spend as much as 40 percent of those remaining, long years in less than full health, suffering from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis, among other ailments.”

China’s government also estimates that air pollution prematurely kills from 350,000 to 500,000 residents every year.* Water and soil pollution are also severe throughout China.

The documentary film Under the Dome, by Chinese journalist Chai Jing, shows the extent of the air problem. The film was viewed by more than 150 million Chinese in its first few days, apparently with government approval. Later it was censored, showing how conflicted authorities are over the problem and its possible solutions. The pollution problem also demonstrates the ongoing global conflict between economic priorities and human and environmental health.

Rather than seeing China’s situation as a warning, many people in Canada and the U.S. — including in government — refuse to believe we could end up in a similar situation here. And so U.S. politicians fight to block pollution-control regulations and even to remove the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, or shut it down altogether! In Canada, politicians and pundits argue that environmental protection is too costly and that the economy takes precedence.

The Global Coal Boom Is Going Bust: Report

A new report by CoalSwarm and the Sierra Club provides compelling evidence that the death knell for the global coal boom might very well have rung some time between 2010 and 2012.

Based on data CoalSwarm compiled of every coal plant proposed worldwide for the past five years as part of its Global Coal Plant Tracker initiative, the report finds that for every coal plant that came online, plans for two other plants were put on hold or scrapped altogether.

The failure-to-completion rate was even higher, as much as 4 to 1, in Europe, South Asia, Latin America, and Africa, according to the report, which also says that the long decline in coal-fired energy production in the United States and the European Union can be expected to speed up in the near future.

“From 2003 to 2014, the amount of coal-fired generating capacity retired in the US and the EU exceeded new capacity by 22 percent. With most new capacity plans halted and large amounts of capacity slated for retirement, reductions in coal capacity are expected to accelerate.”

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