In a first-ever government white paper that lays out an energy strategy and expectations, China has pledged to continue to rely on coal for the foreseeable future.
It has, however, pledged to develop new renewable energy sources and expedite the development of cleaner ways to burn coal both of which will be critical if the world's most populous nation is to slow its world-leading emissions of carbon dioxide. China's extraordinary economic rise in recent years has been fueled largely by coal, much as the European and American industrial revolution era was.
But, just as that pollution filled the atmosphere with greenhouse gases that are fueling the current increase in temperatures, China's emissions today will fill the atmosphere for generations to come, locking the world into a scenario of continued global warming, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
The difference is that today we understand what all that carbon dioxide does in the atmosphere, and we have more alternatives for producing electricity.
That's why the world negotiations that centered around getting developing nations like China to agree to binding cuts in emissions, as well as those centered around transferring clean energy technology from rich to poor nations, are so important.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.