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​IPE Conference: China will not exit coal any time soon

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Despite increasing moves in China towards environmental responsibility at many levels, the country will stick to coal as a source of energy and heat production, experts from China told delegates at the IPE Conference in Dublin.

Robert Li, senior vice president and investment strategist at China Asset Management, said: “I think those in the international community who really understand the situation in China must acknowledge that in no foreseeable future will China be able to survive without coal.”

Li was responding to a question from Dennis Gadsby, trustee of the UK’s Industry-Wide Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme on China’s use of coal.

The strategist said it was important to differentiate between a necessity and something where an alternative was being sought.

“When the earth was created, China did have a very strong concentration of coal compared to a lot of countries,” he said. “When you think about coming from an energy independence perspective, China will need coal, but from our perspective, how can we make it better than the status quo?”

He said that, over the past few decades, the business community had come to understand the problem, and moves to create “infrastructure technology to optimise these kind of efficiencies are under way”.

Li gave the example of one Chinese company that was working to extract excess heat from electricity generation processes to warm up households, reducing the need for direct coal heating.

“These are new technologies that we think will generate very good returns going forward,” said Li.

Meanwhile fellow panellist Yan Hu, member of the advisory board of Vermilion Partners in China, agreed that “we can’t ban coal heating instantly, overnight”.

Environmental think tank Global Carbon Project this week cited increasing coal use in China as one of the main causes of a spike in carbon emissions this year.

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