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China's coal use continues to plummet in 2015

China's coal consumption may have dropped as much as 8% so far this year compared with the same period in 2014 as economic growth slows and the government tackles smog

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(Image by Liu Feiyue / Greenpeace

China’s coal use continued to fall sharply in the first four months of this year, raising hopes that demand for the highly polluting fuel in China may have already seen its zenith and that the world’s largest emitter will be able to peak its greenhouse gas emissions before 2030.

Coal output in China April fell 7.4% from a year ago to 298 million tonnes, government statistics showed on Wednesday, dented by slower economic growth and measures to improve chronic air quality in major cities and scale back surplus production in heavy industry.

Analysis from Greenpeace estimates that coal consumption in China fell by almost 8% and CO2 emissions by 5% compared with the same period in 2014.

If sustained for the rest of the year, it would be the largest year-on-year reduction (in absolute terms) in any country, the green group said.  

If played out over the year, the fall would be even deeper than in 2014, when coal use fell around 3% compared with 2013. 

China has undertaken to cap its coal use at 4.2 million tonnes by 2020, but unless the economy returns to double-digit growth, or extremes of weather drive up demand for coal-fired power and reduce hydro availability, the country may have already passed its high-water mark for coal use, say some analysts. 

The figures for the first four months of this year emerged just weeks before China and other large emitters resume UN-led climate talks in Bonn that aim to make progress on possible terms of a climate deal at the end of 2015 at the Paris summit.

China is expected to unveil its national climate plan around the same time as the Bonn talks, although few of the proposals are likely to be a surprise in the view of the agreement signed with the US late last year, and various measures aimed at reducing the country’s reliance on coal.

A selection of chinadialogue stories on China and coal can be found here:

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China and peak coal

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