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China, biggest polluter, now shifting to greener energy

By Floro Mercene

Coal still makes up the largest part of China’s energy consumption, but Beijing has been shutting coal mines and set out plans last year to cut roughly 1.3 million jobs in the industry. The Chinese government has also moved to restrict the construction of new coal power plants.

The economic and health consequences of air pollution are also well researched. RAND Corporation estimated that air pollution in 2012 cost China $535 billion, or 6.5 percent o its gross domestic product, due to losses in labor productivity. A UC Berkeley study concluded that air pollution led to an estimated 1.6 million deaths a year, roughly 17 percent of all deaths in the country. A University of Chicago report found that suspended particulates in causing half a billion residents in northern China to lose an average of 5 years of life expectancy.

In 2013 Tsinghua University and the Asian Development Bank reported that 7 out of the 10 most polluted cities in the world are in China. Studies also point to climate change being a contributor to China’s aggravating smog crises. A 2015 survey found that air pollution is one of the top concerns for people in China.

Reducing air pollution is a direct reason why the Chinese government promotes renewable energy. China is genuinely interested in leading the world in development and investment in renewable energy. It is currently the world’s largest producer of wind and solar energy, and the largest domestic and outbound investor in renewable energy. Four of the world’s five bigger renewable energy deals were made by Chinese companies in 2016. As of early 2017, China owns five of the world’s six largest solar-module manufacturing companies and the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers.