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China to Defend Use of Coal-fired Power Plants in Paris Climate Summit

China will defend its use of coal-fired power plants at the United Nations 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) scheduled to begin Monday in Paris.

In an interview with CNN, China’s special envoy on climate change, Xie Zhenhua, said China stands by its decision to replace its aging coal-fired plants with some 150 new coal-fired energy facilities this year.

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“As we close those backward and inefficient power plants, we have replaced them with more efficient, cleaner power plants,” Xie said, adding that the new power plants will not cause a significant increase in China’s carbon emissions.

Coal-fired power plants still generate more than half of China’s energy requirements.  Beijing is likely to insist on its present policy on coal-fired energy production if the question is ever raised during the COP21 summit.

Some environmental activists have denounced the use of coal in energy production because of its detrimental consequences on human health and the environment.  Burning coal is a top source of toxic pollution and  carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the primary cause of climate change.

Some 10,000 residents from Heyuan in northeastern Guangdong took to the streets in April to protest against a coal-fired power plant in the region.

But Xie — a trained physicist — pointed out that China is making remarkable progress toward reducing its dependence on coal for energy production.  He said the country’s hydropower capacity has doubled, its wind-power capacity has increased 60-fold, and its solar power capacity has risen 280-fold.

“Dealing with climate change is an inevitable road that we need to take to achieve sustainable development,”  Xie said. “This is not something we are pressured to do — it’s something we want to do, and do well.”

China’s climate envoy is confident the country will be able to stabilize its carbon emissions within 15 years.  The Chinese government had assented to this goal in a joint agreement with the US in November 2014.

Referring to the still uncertain outcome of the U.S. elections and those in the republican party who doubt the science behind climate change, Xie said he was more worried about the U.S. government’s ability to pursue its climate goals.

“It’s the United States you should be concerned about,” Xie said, smiling. “Will it keep its current policy intact?”  Source

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