When I read Industry Awakens to Threat of Climate Change and learned about the tax imposed on carbon, I remembered one of my final projects back in undergraduate three years ago. My final project was for my Economic Energy class and my topic is not surprising – China’s Energy (as I am from China). It was not until then I realized how deeply we rely on coal. More than 78% of the total electricity generated from coal burning drives the whole country economy and also creates side effects to the society.
Carbon emissions have been an increasingly hot topic in the last five years and draws the most attentions from the whole society. Before that, the issue of coal mine safety was always on the newspaper headline. Nowadays, improvements in mineral operations has reduced accidents but the industry is still criticized for the negative externalities of carbon emissions and the responsibility of climate change. When attending a presentation about the Asian real estate market last week, I learnt that some international companies are moving their Asian offices from Beijing to other cities becauseof the horrific air pollution in Beijing. It is just like how drought affects Coke in producing sugar cane and sweet beet. But for China, It is more difficult to solve the puzzle.
Economically, coal remains the cheapest power resource in China for abundant coal reservation. Although I discussed in my project about alternative options to replace coal, such as hydropower, nuclear and wind, these new energy resources would take several decades to reduce the cost.
Politically, the country has been so concentrated on economic development for more than 30 years, and I could see rare possibility of shutting down coal fire plants in exchange for less carbon emissions. The government was reluctant to promise reductions even under huge pressure from society, especially after PM2.5 air condition index being released every day.
I find myself struggling in the air every time I’m back home. Coke changed its position because climate change had direct impact on the company supply chain. It is another calculation rather than purely social responsibility. Similarly, I wonder when China could stop relying on coal and eventually reduce carbon emissions. I hope we could do the right calculation and not only after too much has been sacrificed.