For the first time in more than a decade China's coal useage falls

October 27, 2014

For the first time this century China is burning less coal. According to an analysis of official statistics.

China’s booming coal in the last decade has been the major contributor to the fast-rising carbon emissions that drive climate change, making the first fall a significant moment, The Guardian reported.

The amount of coal burned in the first three-quarters of 2014 was 1-2 percent lower than a year earlier, according to Greenpeace energy analysts in China. The drop contrasts sharply with the 5-10 percent annual growth rates seen since the early years of the century.

The reductions occurred as China's economy continued to grow by 7.4 percent, although this was a lower growth rate than the past few years.
Such a turnaround would potentially have a large impact on the biggest coal exporting countries such as Indonesia and Australia, which have profited from China’s demand for the fuel.

At the United Nations climate change summit in New York in September, China said it would start to reduce the nation’s huge carbon emissions “as early as possible”.

Official Chinese data has been unreliable in the past but Lauri Myllyvirta at Greenpeace East Asia said cross-checking the current data for industrial production with energy consumption showed a consistent picture.

Coal consumption for electricity is coming down, there is very slow growth of steel and cement and a drop in both coal imports and domestic coal production, he said. “We are seeing so many different data showing a consistent pattern that we have much more confidence this is really happening.”

The cause of the reduced coal-burning was reduced demand, with China’s statistical agency noting that economic growth was increasingly coming from the service sector instead of heavy industry, as well as new renewable energy such as hydropower and wind power.

The consultancy Make said 2014 would be a record year for wind in China with 20.4GW of new installations. A further factor was action to cut the severe air pollution affecting many Chinese cities and which recently led to many of the 30,000 runners in the Beijing marathon wearing face masks.

After China, the US is the world’s biggest carbon polluter. But President Barack Obama’s efforts to fight climate change were dealt a blow on Tuesday when the US Energy Information Administration’s Monthly Energy Review revealed that US energy-related carbon pollution rose 2.5% in 2013.

The rise was one of the steepest on record in the last 25 years and resulted in part from the freezing Arctic temperatures of 2103’s polar vortex increasing the energy used to heat homes. The data also showed a 4.8% increase in the use of energy from coal and a 10% fall in energy from natural gas.

 

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