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Potential of greenhouse gases tapped
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The government is determined to work with global partners to turn the demanding task of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into lucrative business opportunities, a senior official said yesterday.


Xie Zhenhua, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the country has already forged close partnerships with some developed countries for trading carbon dioxide and methane, the two major GHGs causing global warming.


"China faces arduous tasks in dealing with climate change but the potential for reducing greenhouse gases is tremendous; and so are business opportunities," said Xie, who is also the deputy director of the National Leading Group of Work Responding to Climate Change.


Xie's optimism stems from the fact that nearly half the country's coal mines have a high concentration of methane - most of it discharged as part of mine safety.


"But if technology, capital and environmental protection awareness are combined, we can make coal cleaner, reduce methane emissions and let methane serve as an alternative energy source," Xie told China Daily prior to the Methane to Markets Partnership Conference and Expo which opened yesterday in Beijing with more than 600 participants from 30 countries.


The three-day conference is an important component of the Methane to Markets Partnership, an international initiative launched in 2004. It is aimed at offering cost-effective technologies and information to improve methane recovery and use as a clean energy. About 20 countries, including China and the United States, have joined the partnership.


Methane is a potent GHG, 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, accounting for 16 percent of global GHG emissions from a variety of sources.


John Beale, deputy assistant administrator of the US Environmental Protection Administration, said nine of the top 10 methane-emitting countries have joined the partnership.


"We look forward to continuing to grow the partnership and several other countries have shown interest," said Beale.


To turn more emissions into alternative energy, Xie called for a stronger international partnership to remove technological and capital barriers that prevent the reduction of methane emission.


Huang Shengchu, president of the China Coal Information Institute, said the recovery of coal bed methane, which can greatly prevent coal mine accidents, can be quickly developed into a profit-making industry.


Annual coal bed methane emissions in China stand at 15 billion cubic meters as coal output has been increasing. In comparison, only about 3.2 billion cubic meters was vented from coal mine drainage systems last year. "In the past, we released methane for work safety consideration; now, we recover the gas for purposes of safety, resources and environmental protection," said Huang.


(China Daily October 31, 2007)


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