China Briefing, 26 August 2021: Closed coal mines reopened; Rapid warming for Tibet; ‘Record low’ carbon prices

SEVERE WEATHER: The Henan meteorological bureau released “a number of” red alerts– the most extreme in Chinas four-tier, colour-coded weather warning system– for heavy rain on Sunday, Xinhua reported. The state newswire stated that different areas of the province– the third most populated in China– had “gone all out” to deal with “a new round of heavy rain”. No casualties were reported. The news came after more than 300 individuals died in rain-triggered flooding in Henan last month. This China Briefing covered the disaster.

OTHER FINDINGS: Researchers provided a series of other findings, according to the Chinese report. The apparent environmental enhancement had actually been triggered by climate change, the report stated. He told Carbon Brief that quickly warming has led to the retreat of glaciers, magnified thawing of permafrost– permanently frozen ground in high latitudes– and loss of seasonal snow cover in the plateau.

WHERE: All of these mines are positioned in Ordos, according to Workers Daily. Known for its abundant coal resources, the 87,000-square-kilometre city– a little larger than Ireland — has more than 160bn tonnes of proven coal reserves, state-run Peoples Daily reported in 2010. The volume is more than one-sixth of the nationwide overall, the main paper stated. Between January and April this year, Ordos produced 213m tonnes of raw coal, more than 63% of the provincial total, according to official stats. Province-wise, last year, Inner Mongolia turned out more than 1bn tonnes of raw coal and was the second-largest coal region in China after Shanxi, the National Statistics Bureau stated.

WHERE: The Tibetan Plateau, likewise called the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, is the greatest and largest plateau worldwide, covering an area approximately four times the size of France. The plateau and its environments are home to the largest number of glaciers outside the polar areas, according to a paper. It is likewise a “vital” area for the Asian water cycle and provides the headwaters for 12 significant rivers in East, South and Central Asia, Wang Bin, a meteorologist and professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in the United States, who was not associated with the research or the exploration, informed Carbon Brief. The area has been nicknamed the “roof of the world” and the “water tower of Asia”.

BRAND-NEW INSPECTION: A brand-new round of main eco-friendly and ecological evaluation works officially began yesterday, state-run newswire China News Service reported. This is the fourth batch of the 2nd round of such inspections since 2015– with each round enduring 4 years– and will see five provinces and two party-run enterprises go through a month of probe, the outlet stated. This Carbon Brief Q&A discussed the significance of such evaluations.

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WHY IT MATTERS: Climate change over the Tibetan Plateau “will substantially impact the Asian monsoon and about 50% of the world populations every day life”, Prof Wang stated, adding that “it is not just a local climate and ecological modification concern”. Prof Wang described that the advancement of science on the plateau was “in immediate need” and that “Chinese scientists could make a breakthrough in the future”. Prof Zhou kept in mind that the loss of seasonal snow cover in the area would affect the environment and the diversity of types. “Additional community responses to warming consist of the carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) fluxes from wetlands and permafrost, which would enhance worldwide warming,” he included.

HOW: Media reports suggested that the resuming of these Inner Mongolia mines were a response to soaring domestic coal costs, which, according to Caixin, had caused power rationing in “various locations” and increased business expense to generate electrical energy. The supply shortfall and spiking costs were not caused by emission-reduction activities, but a mix of other elements, Yu Aiqun, China scientist at Global Energy Monitor, told Carbon Brief. Yu stated that a person trigger was an anti-corruption campaign that Inner Mongolia had gone for the start of 2020. She said that the project, known as “probe in reverse for 20 years (倒查20年)”, “slowed the coal production growth of this big coal region” in 2020. Another factor was that “China banned the coal import from Australia, the second-biggest coal exporter to China” at the end of in 2015, Yu noted. There was likewise “the impact from the pandemic internationally and the [post-pandemic] healing”, she included..

TREE PLANTING: China plans to plant 36,000 square kilometres of new forest– roughly half the size of Scotland– every year from 2021 to 2025 to “assist reach net-zero”, Reuters reported, pointing out Li Chunliang, a senior ecological authorities. Li kept in mind that China planned to enhance the “quality and stability” of its environmental system “thoroughly” and increase its carbon sink “considerably” by 2035, according to CCTV. The authorities channel also reported that President Xi on Monday checked out a symbolic tree farm in Hebei province, which was built on barren land in the 60s to avoid sandstorms from striking Beijing. The leader called for the continued development of “ecological civilisation”.

A new paper has taken a look at the resource, institutional and financial ramifications of replacing and decreasing coal generation in China with mainly renewable energy and energy storage as early as 2040. It discovered that to attain a 2040 coal phaseout, the country would require to install 100-150GW of solar and wind capacity a year and 15GW of energy storage each year from 2020 to 2025. In addition, the matching capacity would need to grow to be 250GW and 90GW a year from 2025 to 2040. [China already has the target to set up 90GW of solar and wind capability throughout 2021, according to this Carbon Brief analysis.] Dr Lin Jiang, an accessory teacher at UC Berkeley in the US, is a co-author of the paper. He informed Carbon Brief: “The secret to construct [ing] a renewable-centric electrical power system in China is to double down on its world-leading record of financial investment in solar, wind and storage, and to accelerate the ongoing institutional reforms.”.

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WHEN: The report appeared on Xinhua and Workers Daily on Tuesday, but the coal mines had actually been authorised to run by 30 July, according to a notice from the state macroeconomic organizer, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). On 4 August, NDRC and National Energy Administration, the state energy regulator, purchased 15 “idle” coal mines with a combined daily coal output of 150,000 tonnes to perform their “pilot operation” for another year.

WHY IT MATTERS: Yu said that the “speedy resumption” of the operation of the 38 Ordos mines implied that social and environmental regulations could be “compromised” to fulfill the economic need– a phenomenon President Xi Jinping had criticised while resolving Inner Mongolia officials in 2019. Yu explained: “China is walking on a tightrope, trying to balance the economic growth and the ecological objectives, consisting of [peaking] emission [s] and [attaining] carbon neutrality. This is an impossible mission unless the economic growth is separated [from] the carbon emission growth.”.

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On Tuesday, state newswire Xinhua ran a story, revealing that the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region– one of Chinas biggest coal-producing provinces– had actually “restarted” more than 60m tonnes of coal production capability. The report stated that 38 mines, which had actually been ordered to halt their operation due to land-use offenses, were all up and running once again following federal government approval. The relocation occurred “when carbon neutrality fulfilled high coal prices”, part of the heading read.

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WHAT: 38 open-pit coal mines in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China have begun running again after the local federal government authorized their land-use applications, said an article syndicated by Xinhua. These mines– with a combined yearly coal production capability of almost 67m tonnes– had been bought to “stop operation” since of “incomplete land-use procedures”, the publication stated.

Dozens of coal mines resume operation to boost production.

ETS: Prices of carbon emissions allows in Chinas national ETS settled at 49 yuan (₤ 5.5) per tonne of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) last Friday, the least expensive closing cost the plan had seen given that its launch on 16 July, reported Angus Media. Huang Runqiu, Chinas minister of ecology and environment, said last week that the carbon market, as “a brand-new thing to the entire society”, still had “many imperfections and flaws” and “much room for improvement”.

On The Other Hand, China Meteorological News reported that the Tibetan Plateau– home to some 46,000 glaciers– is experiencing “a fever” due to rapid international warming. The areas typical yearly temperature level has increased more than two times as rapidly as the around the world level in the previous 60 years, the publication said, citing researchers. One teacher informed Carbon Brief that environment change over the region would “considerably affect” the life of around half of the worlds population.

Tibetan Plateau in fever due to years of rapid warming.

ZERO EMISSION VILLAGE: Zhuangshang, a town in Shanxi province, has actually turned into one of Chinas very first towns to switch from fossil fuels to overall electrification, reported Shanxi Daily. The report said that Zhuangshang residents are now living a “zero emission” life thanks to a brand-new electricity-generating system supported by solar energy and energy storage. Homeowners have changed gas stoves and coal-fired heating facilities with induction cookers and electrical heating systems, the outlet stated while explaining the towns change.

CHINA-US COOPERATION: The “environment crisis” is “unlikely” to turn China and the US into “green collaborators” amidst political tensions in between the two, South China Morning Post reported. The outlet stated that, according to experts and researchers, the two countries might “strongly complete in their environment policies”. In an op-ed in the Interpreter, political expert Henry Storey said that “the political characteristics of the present relationship [in between China and the US] seem to preclude anything more than a tokenistic level of [environment] cooperation”. On an associated subject, Reuters reported that John Kerry, United States President Bidens climate envoy, was anticipated to check out China next month. Last weeks China Briefing went over the subject.

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COAL: Provincial authorities in China authorized 24 coal power plants in the first half of this year, Bloomberg reported, mentioning a report from Greenpeace. Reuters, Climate Home News and South China Morning Post also covered the evaluation.

MORE ETS: The nationwide ETS might play “an essential role” in Chinas pursuit of “carbon neutrality” by “potentially reducing carbon emissions by 30% to 60% of existing levels by 2060”, reported South China Morning Post. Jane Ho, AIGCCs director of financier practice, told Carbon Brief that the launch of Chinas national ETS might be “one of the most considerable drivers” of carbon reduction in Asia. Ho stated that with the “best settings”, the plan could be “important” to Chinas climate objectives.

WHO: The findings originated from the 2nd detailed scientific examination of the Tibetan Plateau, China Meteorological News stated. The expedition is a government-run research effort that began in 2017 and will last 5 to 10 years, according to Xinhua. Scientists embarked on the journey around 40 years after Chinas very first such investigation, which took location in between 1973 and 1980.

In other places, the closing price of Chinas nationwide emissions trading plan (ETS) last Friday was the least expensive the market had seen since its launch in mid-July, reported Angus Media. “Chinas brand-new carbon trading market isnt working”, stated Quartz while covering the news. On the other hand, new analysis forecasted that the plan might have “material impact” by the middle of this years, although its preliminary effect may be “limited”.

WHAT: The Tibetan Plateau– a huge plateau in south-western China with elevations between 4,000 and 5,000 metres– has actually warmed up more than twice as quickly as the rest of the world on average in the past 60 years, reported China Meteorological News, pointing out researchers. The publication, which is run by the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), stated that the region is suffering from “a fever”, having seen its temperature levels increasing at a rate of 0.35 C per decade between 1961 and 2020.

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Another factor was that “China banned the coal import from Australia, the second-biggest coal exporter to China” at the end of last year, Yu kept in mind. WHAT: The Tibetan Plateau– a large plateau in south-western China with elevations between 4,000 and 5,000 metres– has warmed up more than two times as rapidly as the rest of the world on average in the previous 60 years, reported China Meteorological News, citing researchers. MORE ETS: The national ETS could play “a crucial function” in Chinas pursuit of “carbon neutrality” by “possibly lowering carbon emissions by 30% to 60% of present levels by 2060”, reported South China Morning Post. CHINA-US COOPERATION: The “climate crisis” is “not likely” to turn China and the United States into “green collaborators” amidst political stress in between the 2, South China Morning Post reported. COAL: Provincial authorities in China authorized 24 coal power plants in the first half of this year, Bloomberg reported, citing a report from Greenpeace.