China just poked a giant hole in Mitch McConnell’s pro-coal campaign

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Last week, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) published a letter to all 50 U.S. governors calling on them to reject an emissions-reduction plan put forward by the Obama administration.


As the New York Times’ Coral Davenport recently reported, it’s part of an unprecedented campaign on McConnell’s part to prevent further losses in the coal industry, something his home state, Kentucky, is heavily dependent on.

Among the arguments McConnell makes is that no matter what the U.S. does, it won’t amount to much as long as other countries refuse make similar moves.

Well, the largest emitter in the world now appears to be doing so.

Bloomberg reports that the city of Beijing is closing its last two major coal plants and will replace them with gas fired plants. Two others have already been swapped.

It’s part of a larger program that will also see China shut down more than 2,000 smaller coal mines.

“Coal use is declining or slowing in China as policy makers encourage broader use of hydroelectric power, solar and wind,” Bloomberg says. “The nation is also pushing to restart its nuclear power program in a bid to clear the skies. China’s electricity consumption last year grew at its slowest pace in 16 years, according to data from the China Electricity Council.”


McConnell's office did not respond to a request for comment.

China remains the world’s largest polluter, comprising about a quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions.

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

But new data show its emissions fell for the first time in 14 years last year.

“After many years of unbelievable economic and coal demand growth, China has entered a more moderate path,” the International Energy Agency said in December. “Lower economic growth and also a lower energy intensive economy and higher diversification will curtail coal growth in China in the coming years.”


Obama’s emissions-reduction plan is likely to come before the Supreme Court (on top of another EPA plan, targeting mercury, that is before the court right now). Laurence Tribe, a former Obama adviser, has written a brief in support of coal giant Peabody Energy challenging the plan’s legality.

“It retroactively abrogates the federal government’s policy of promoting coal as an energy source,” he wrote. “Private companies – and whole communities – reasonably relied on the federal government’s commitment to the support of coal.”


But we now know that even if America’s plan fails to survive in its current form, another country is stepping up to the challenge.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.