The Chinese government seems determined to phase out coal from their economy. According to an official press release, China will allocate 30 billion yuan ($4.56 billion) in funds over the next three years to the closure of small, inefficient mines.

The entrance to a small coal mine in China. Image via Wikipedia.

China is by far the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal in the world. In 2014 the carbon emissions from China made up about 28.8% of the world total, 10.4 billion tons. CO2 emissions. Basically, their economic growth in the past two decades was powered by coal and that has consequences. Air pollution has gotten so bad that a study by the World Bank found that air pollution kills 750,000 people every year in China. Smog is a common occurrence in many large cities, and the past years have witnessed many social uprisings and even riots because of air pollution. But China is taking steps in the right direction.

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The country has announced a plan to invest 2.3 trillion yuan ($376 billion) to reduce their carbon footprint, especially targeting the coal industry. Both coal production and consumption peaked in 2013, constantly dropping year after year. Coal production in China was down 3.7% in the first 11 months of 2015 compared to the same period last year and the trend isn’t slowing down. Total raw coal output fell 3.5% in 2015 according to official data.

Now, the official news agency Xinhua announced China will aim to close 4,300 mines and cut annual production capacity by 700 million tonnes over the next three years. They also banned new mine approvals for the next three years, though this will hardly make a dent in the grand scheme of things.

China still has around 11,000 mines in operation, much larger than the ones they want to close now. The total estimated capacity is 5.7 billion tonnes, so there’s still a long way to go.

China’s coal industry is so developed that it can actually undermine global efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and prevent global warming. In 2014 the carbon emissions from China made up about 28.8% of the world total, so any significant move to phase out coal is good news not for China, but for the world.