China is breaking up with coal. That means we should too.

pollution in china
CC BY 2.0 Flickr

With activists in the US preparing for the largest climate march in history, the refrain you'll often hear from naysayers is that curbing emissions in the West is pointless because China and India will continue to pollute.

That argument, however, is beginning to look tired.

With the economic and health impacts of China's coal addiction becoming ever more apparent, the government there is beginning to get serious about a shift to cleaner energy. And that shift is beginning to show results.

Back in August, Greenpeace reported that Chinese coal consumption may have fallen in the first half of 2014, while GDP continued to rise. That news was met with some skepticism, and muttering about inaccurate statistics. Next, we heard that Chinese coal imports had fallen too, an indicator that is considered much more reliable than domestic consumption by many experts. Now, it's being reported that China will crackdown on the most polluting forms of coal, meaning imports from coal producing nations like Australia, where solar is already squeezing coal profits domestically, could be hit especially hard.

Of course, anyone who cares about the climate should care deeply that China may finally be cutting its own emissions. But the story is even bigger than that. With renewables, natural gas and efficiency eating into coal consumption in many Western nations, coal producing regions have been hanging their hopes on ever increasing consumption in India and China. While it's way too soon to declare victory just yet, these figures are a sign that predictions of rocketing consumption are unreliable at best, and quite possibly downright inaccurate. If the the coal industry does falter, that could have negative consequences for the many pension funds, banks and financial institutions that have coal-related assets.

It's time for all of us to get serious about divesting from coal and transitioning to a cleaner economy, not only as a moral imperative, but as a prudent step toward avoiding financial harm.

Tags: Activism | Coal | Economics | Global Climate Change


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