Donald Trump's Paris Agreement pullout, China's reduced coal production paves way for Beijing to be global leader

A review of world energy published by BP has revealed that the global demand for coal has fallen for the second consecutive year. The world coal production has also reduced by 6.2 percent and China's production fell by 7.9 percent.

The study also states that coal consumption has been declining for three years in China. "Policy actions taken in China to reduce excess capacity in their domestic coal sector spilled over into global coal markets, with world prices rising. This further depressed global coal demand, particularly in the power sector around the globe, with natural gas and renewable energy the main beneficiaries," the study says.

File image of China's president Xi Jinping. Reuters

File image of China's president Xi Jinping. Reuters

The BP review reaffirms China's commitment to fighting climate change even after United States president Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement. During his speech, Trump said that the deal was not tough enough on some countries like India and China.

"China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So we can't build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement," he said. Trump also pointed out that China will be able to increase its emissions by a staggering number of years – 13. Citing the deal as "very unfair" to the United States, Trump decided to pull out.

With the US in retreat and China's declining usage of oil and increasing investment in renewable energy, Beijing seems to be emerging as a global leader on climate change. For years Beijing fought attempts by foreign governments to limit carbon emissions but the steps taken by China in recent years reaffirms the belief that it is ready to fill the vacuum left by Trump.

China initially claimed that it should be allowed the same space to develop and pollute that industrialised nations had, as this article in Salon points out. However, as the anger mounted in China over the deadly smog that had surrounded Beijing and the inefficiency of the government to improve the environment, China was forced to take a step back and think seriously about tackling pollution.

Chinese president Xi Jinping vowed to defend the Paris Agreement after Trump pulled the US out of the historic deal. He also promised to invest in clean energy, build scientific coalitions, and support other countries' efforts to adapt to climate change, as reported by The Huffington Post. "We propose the establishment of an international coalition for green development on the Belt and Road, and we will provide support to related countries in adapting to climate change," Xi had said.

Xi's statement, combined with China’s steps to reduce emissions and clean up its environment, is increasingly being seen as a move to replace the US as the world leader. Chinese premier Li Keqiang said that Beijing would reduce its carbon intensity, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP, by 60 to 65 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.

Li also said that renewable energy should make up 20 percent of China's primary energy supply by the same date, as reported by Foreign Policy. Beijing has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions for the past three years and it has also halted the construction of 103 new coal-fired powerplants. At the start of the year, China announced an investment of $361 billion into renewable power generation by 2020. Apart from creating about 13 million jobs, the investment will boost solar capacity by five times, as Fortune reported.

China's 13th five-year plan, released in 2016, aims to reduce energy intensity by 15 percent and carbon intensity by 18 percent compared to 2015 levels. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced plans to reduce coal consumption by 160 million tonnes by 2020, according to Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions.

China, at present, builds two-thirds of the world's solar panels, around half of the world's wind turbines. The Chinese government has also announced targets to increase solar and wind capacity to 70 and 150 GW, respectively, by 2017.

China also signed an agreement with California to work together on reducing emissions. California governor had a meeting with Xi where the two pledged to work on green technologies that could help address climate change. "While China cancels coal power plants, Trump cancels climate action," India Today quoted Li Shuo, who works for Greenpeace in Beijing, as saying. Trump's decision to come out of the Paris Agreement seems to have paved the way for China to take on as the world leader in battling climate change and Beijing's initiatives in the sector seem to have strengthened its position.

Updated Date: Jun 14, 2017 13:58 PM

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