7 december 2016

Beijing's diplomacy is increasingly green, but its international trade is getting ever more coal-black.

By Kara Sherwin, Foreign Policy, December 7, 2016

China Is Outsourcing Its Pollution

As the world speculated on the potential policies of climate change denier and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, Xi Jinping breathed life into this year’s U.N. climate change conference in Marrakech, Morocco, by reaffirming his commitment to peak Chinese carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Transitioning from rhetoric on historical responsibility for climate change, the Chinese president said his term as G-20 leader would be committed to developing China as an “ecological civilization,” because “green mountains and clear water are as good as mountains of gold and silver.”

But Xi’s environmental rhetoric shouldn’t be taken at face value. As he moves to reduce China’s use of coal in electricity generation at home, his government has been vigorously pushing coal overseas, frustrating the hope for “ecological civilizations” elsewhere.

Denis Zisko knows all about green mountains and clear water. He grew up swimming in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Lake Modrac during the 1960s, before it was contaminated with coal dust and ash deposited by the Banovici coal mine and Tuzla coal-fired power plant. Now working as the energy campaign coordinator for Bosnia’s Center for Ecology and Energy, Zisko is challenging a planned 450 megawatt expansion to the Tuzla plant funded by China’s state-owned Export-Import Bank, known as Chexim. Accompanying the deal is an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract with China Gezhouba Group worth $750 million. Just a couple of miles away, China’s Dongfang Electric has made the winning EPC contract bid for another coal plant, this time greenfield, under financing consideration by the Chinese.

The Tuzla expansion and the Banovici greenfield plant are just two of nearly 80 overseas coal projects under consideration for financing or construction by China, according to research by the Central and Eastern European (CEE) Bankwatch Network. Collectively, these projects represent 52 gigawatts of capacity, more than the 40 gigawatts of expected retirements under U.S. President Barack Obama’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the construction of new coal plants, if unabated by carbon capture and storage, is incompatible with the “deep decarbonization” needed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Foreign Policy

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