China’s efforts to tackle coal are comprehensive and ambitious, a new report shows. President Trump and his administration have claimed that the Paris climate accord is a “bad deal” because it requires much more of the US than of China. This reflects an enduring conservative paranoia that the Chinese are getting one over on us. To this day, it remains a central conservative argument against climate action: China is the real problem and it isn’t doing anything, so US action is futile.
In support of this position, conservatives point to the fact that dozens of coal plants have either recently been built or are in the planning or construction phases in China. This, they say, gives the lie to the country’s promises.
It can be difficult for the average news consumer to sort out this dispute. The Chinese government is notoriously opaque, the situation is developing rapidly, and most of what reaches US media is shallow he-said, she-said coverage. Happily, the Center for American Progress is on the case. It recently sent a team of researchers to China to investigate its energy markets, analyze regulatory and plant construction data, and interview Chinese coal miners and coal plant operators. It sought to answer a simple question: What is China doing about coal?