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Beijing's central business district. (Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons)

Beijing’s central business district. (Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons)

Beijing will close the last of its four major coal-fired power plants in 2016. The move is part of a city-wide plan to cut annual coal consumption by 13 million metric tons by 2017.

As reported by Bloomberg, the coal plant closures began last year with the shuttering of a plant owned by China Datang Corp. This past week, plants owned by Guohua Electric Power Corp. and Beijing Energy Investment Holding Co. were closed, and a plant owned by China Huaneng Group Corp. is slated for closure next year. In their place, Beijing will construct four gas-fired stations that will generate 2.6 times more electricity than the coal plants.

Though natural gas has its own climate-associated problems, ditching coal is a major step for Beijing and for China. With heat waves and drought on the rise and its citizens’ health on the decline, the nation has opted to follow the science and push its energy industry away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. Prime Minister Li Keqiang has declare a “war against pollution,” which, along with a joint-commitment with the United States to peak its carbon emissions, has resulted in the closure of over 2,000 coal mines, the implementation of a nationwide cap-and-trade program and major investments in renewable energy generation.

“To face the challenges from past and future climate change, we must respect nature and live in harmony with it,” Zheng Guogang, the head of China’s meteorological administration, recently told Xinhua news agency.

The statement was part of several remarks Zheng made about climate change, which he addmitted could have a “huge impact” on China’s crops (over 40 percent of its arable land is degraded, according to Xinhua) and its infrastructure. He added that temperature rise in China is already higher than the rest of the world.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, but its pro-environmental measures appear to be paying off. For the first time since 2001, its emissions actually dropped two percent between 2013 and 2014, according to Bloomberg.

There is still a long way to go. China currently generates 64 percent of its electricity from coal, the world’s cheapest but also its dirtiest source of energy.

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