Coal to remain king in China, despite ambitious climate policies

Shenyang, northeast China, Nov. 8, 2015: a Chinese family rides an electric bike in heavy smog (source: dpa)
Shenyang, northeast China, Nov. 8, 2015: a Chinese family rides an electric bike in heavy smog (source: dpa)

The success of the recent COP21 climate deal will depend on efforts by China to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The world’s largest consumer of coal and emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) recently introduced a set of initiatives aimed at a “green energy” transformation. These measures, however, conflict with China’s more basic economic imperatives and the realities of the country’s energy sector. As Chinese leaders seek to protect their legitimacy, they will probably prioritize economic growth, even if that means shelving the most far-reaching energy reforms.

China is the single most influential player on global energy markets, and that will remain true for decades to come. The coun...

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