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China’s coal mines, power plants haven’t cut methane emissions


Even though China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, it promised to curb methane emissions due to the growing threat of climate change in 2010 but has since failed to live up to those regulatory promises, according to a new study released on Tuesday.

The paper published in Nature Communications said China was continuing to produce more methane emissions than any other nation and its coal sector was responsible for 33 percent of that.

Researchers said the regulation gave Chinese coal mines five years to rapidly reduce their methane emissions, the pollutant which comes from coal mining and coal power plants.

Coal still makes up 40 percent of electricity generated around the world, but many authorities around the world have moved away from the material to avoid a catastrophic climate change.

China told the state-run coal sector to use the methane gas for power generation or capture it from mines and flaring it, which is still polluting but releases less gas into the atmosphere, according to climate researchers.

The researchers said they collected data from 2010 and 2015, including satellite images and surveys which revealed methane emissions in China increased by 1.2 million tons during the five year period.

China previously said 6.2 million tons of methane produced from coal mining would be used by 2015.

“Our study indicates that, at least in terms of methane emissions, China’s government is talking the talk but has not been able to walk the walk,” Scot Miller, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who led the research team, said in a statement.

The authors also said infrastructure and technology challenges would complicate efforts to modernize the coal plants and mining operations.

A number of pipelines to transport methane harvested from the remote mining areas to more populated areas for use is difficult and methane capture tools are not designed for the conditions in China.

China started cutting back on new coal-fired power plants, even shutting down several older plants while approving projects to make them the world’s leader in solar and wind installations.

Yet Beijing’s coal consumption still grew in 2017 and would grow even more throughout 2018.

The research said coal mining produces carbon and methane emissions, with coal making up nearly a third of China’s methane emissions.

Urgewald, a group that advocates for a global exit from coal, said China is also using coal to gain influence around the world by building and financing plants in 17 countries.

The International Energy Agency said China added 40 percent to the world’s coal capacity since 2002, a major increase in the last 16 years.

“China had an aspiration and an opportunity to reduce its release of coal-mining-related methane, but our analysis of satellite data shows business-as-usual emissions of this harmful greenhouse gas,” Michalak said. “It’s therefore unlikely that China’s ambitious goals for reducing methane emissions from coal mining were met.”, Maureen Foody

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