Supporting Communities on the Frontlines

We must keep dirty coal in the ground if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Coal also has more immediate impacts. It causes dangerous air pollution that makes people sick, pollutes drinking water and rivers, and destroys wildlife habitat.

We collaborate with local communities to protect people’s health and to accelerate a just transition to a clean energy economy.

  • Pacific Environment has a unique approach to coal in China: It creates public awareness of coal problems and engages grassroots organizations in solving them. No one has done this before and I've witnessed Pacific Environment having a lot of success.
    Dr. Sun Qingwei, Director, China Air and Water Program, National Geographic Society
  • People who live in areas with high rates of coal production are more likely to die from certain cancers. Coal also causes asthma and heart attacks.
  • Coal burning is the single greatest threat to the global climate. China is the largest producer and consumer of coal in the world.
  • The coal industry is one of the biggest water polluters on the planet. It also consumes enormous amounts of water—often in regions already suffering from water shortages.
  • Coal burning releases toxic mercury into the environment, where it enters the food chain and the human body—often through eating contaminated fish. In humans it can damage the brain and the nervous system and cause developmental problems in babies.
  • The coal industry often encroaches on indigenous territory, forcing entire communities to leave their ancestral lands—by force or because their land, water and air have become too polluted to remain.
  • Health
  • Climate
  • Water
  • Food
  • Communities
Coal burning releases toxic pollutants that cause millions of early deaths around the world every year. (Photo: Pacific Environment/Partner)
Once a coal deposit has been fully exploited, wastelands are left behind that are usually impossible to restore. (Photo: Greenpeace Asia)
This short documentary by Greenpeace was one of six documentaries on the true cost of coal that we showcased at our film festival in Paris during the 2015 Climate Talks.

Building Citizen Power

Although many governments have agreed to reduce their reliance on coal for energy, coal mining and burning continues around the Pacific Rim.

We partner with community leaders to hold companies and government officials accountable for life-threatening levels of air and water pollution from coal and to find shared solutions for a clean energy future.

An Example

A coal mine in central China heavily polluted the water of a nearby village. After two decades of tensions, a volunteer from a local environmental group armed the villagers with simple water test kits to collect pollution data. She also arranged a meeting between the villagers, the mine operators and the environmental authorities. As a result, the company agreed to improve its pollution control equipment and the village’s water quality improved.

Our Strategy

When communities learn about the health harms of coal, and they realize that they are not alone in their suffering, the global movement to end our dependence on coal grows stronger.

Our Impact


We help local groups learn about the harmful health impacts of coal in their regions. We also train local leaders to bring this knowledge to their communities.

Pollution Monitoring

We help local groups monitor air and water pollution at coal facilities. Leaders alert local authorities when coal plants exceed pollution limits and put pressure on them to improve pollution treatment equipment.

Partners also ensure that coal plants are not built too close to residential areas, hospitals and schools. And they make sure coal plants do not violate their water permits.

  • There is a paradigm shift in China in terms of public concern about using coal and a government commitment to reducing coal and carbon, and this creates huge pressure for the government to take action.
  • One in 6 babies in coal-mining regions is born underweight.
  • A typical coal-fired power plant uses about 2.2 billion gallons of water each year—enough to support a city of approximately 250,000 people.