Despite promises to cut steel overcapacity, China actually brought more steel production online in 2016, resulting in a surge in air pollution in northern China, especially around Beijing, according to a report released this week by Greenpeace East Asia.
The growth in operating capacity was more than twice the total steel making capacity of Britain, the report said.
The increase in steel production, which is powered by the burning of coal, also means that levels of greenhouse gas emissions from that sector almost certainly grew last year, compared with 2015 levels. Greenhouse gases are the main factor behind the acceleration of climate change.
The steel industry is the second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas; the first is power generation, which also relies mostly on coal.
China is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, ahead of the United States, The New York Times reported on Thursday (Feb 16, 2017).
The Greenpeace report, released on Monday, shows how powerful state-owned enterprises and local officials have acted to keep steel companies operating out of economic self-interest despite a serious overcapacity problem in the industry. And as China’s economic growth slows, local governments feel rising pressure to support factory jobs to avoid domestic unrest.
The report said 10 Chinese provinces increased their operating steel production capacity. The greatest increases were in Shanxi and Hebei, which are close to Beijing and have some of the most toxic air in the world. Only six provinces had a net decrease, the report said.
The Chinese consulting firm Custeel, under commission from Greenpeace East Asia, did the main research for the report. The firm based its calculations on surveys and official documents, including ones from local governments.