Chinese energy officials are putting the brakes on plans for new coal-fired power plants, in yet another attempt to address the country’s massive air pollution problem. In addition to halting new plans, the energy administration is also postponing construction of some already-approved plants until 2018 or later. China has long topped the charts in global carbon dioxide emissions, and poor air quality is responsible for killing thousands of residents throughout the country each day.
The announcement came in the form of new guidelines issued Monday by the National Development and Reform Commission and the National Energy Administration. This step is a follow-up move to the country’s commitment to shutter a thousand coal mines this year, which was announced in February. The guidelines will impact around 200 coal-fired power plants, including those currently seeking approval as well as approved plants that are not yet under construction.
Those planned power plants would have produced 105 gigawatts of power, which is more than the total energy-generating capacity of Britain. China consumes more coal than any other nation, at around 5.5 billion tons annually. Until recently, China has maintained ambitious plans to increase coal-fired energy production, but the government has changed its tune on the heels of the COP21 climate agreement, in which representatives from 170 countries around the world pledged a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and boosting renewable energy in an attempt to offset the effects of global warming. For China’s part, leaders have previously said the country would ban coal entirely by 2020.