Media Release: China coal data indicates consumption fell in 2014, shows peak coal achievable

Press release – 26 January, 2015

For the first time this century, China’s coal consumption appears to have fallen in 2014, according to a new projection from China National Coal Association [1] and recent economic and energy related statistics. Coal consumption growth has been slowing down and decoupling from economic growth since 2012 [2]. China’s coal consumption growth was responsible for more than half of global CO2 emission growth in the past 10 years.

Fang Yuan, spokesperson at Greenpeace East Asia said: “The fact that China’s coal consumption finally starts to decouple from its GDP growth, shows that a peak in coal use is within reach. With political determination on an energy revolution, and strong targets and measures, the peak can be realized well before 2020. This is not only critical for China to win the battle against air pollution, but will also speed us towards a global CO2 emissions peak.”

A number of factors contributed to the reduction in coal consumption last year: rapid increase in renewable power generating capacity, shift of economic growth from heavy industry towards new economy sectors, energy efficiency improvements in power generation and industry, and good hydropower conditions being among the most important. China achieved record increases in grid-connected wind power capacity (20 gigawatts) and solar (11 gigawatts), and continued to add hydropower capacity at a fast rate.

Ambitious policies to control coal use, spurred by the air pollution crisis, along with policies to diversify the economy away from energy-intensive industries, are strongly constraining coal consumption. The final nail in the coffin for unbridled growth of China’s coal consumption came in late 2014. China appears to have dramatically cut down its ambitions for coal-to-gas and other coal conversion projects – the last potential source of rapid coal demand growth, due to concerns about water impacts and economic viability.

Greenpeace analysis [3] indicates that full implementation of China’s existing energy targets, including targets for renewable energy and controlling total energy consumption, can achieve the coal peak before 2020. Greenpeace is calling for this to be made an official target in China’s Five Year Plan for 2016-2020.

In another important positive development, China recently required four provinces in the key economic regions to set absolute coal consumption reduction targets, in addition to four others that already have ambitious targets. These provinces consume over 600 million metric tons of coal per year, almost as much as India as a whole. They have already had an obligation to achieve negative growth of coal consumption by 2017, but the requirement for numeric targets is a clear step up in terms of ambition and accountability. China coal imports also slumped by 35.8 million tons.

“End of China’s coal boom is evident. Global coal industry should brace for impact,” Fang Yang concluded.

ENDS

Contact:

Fang Yuan, Sustainable Finance Campaigner (Beijing): +86 183 0100 8968

Notes to editors:

[1] The statistics from China National Coal Association, reported by the China’s official news agency Xinhua, indicate that coal production fell 2.5% year-on-year, coal imports fell by 10.9% and inventories grew faster in 2014 than in 2013 [2]. The association also projects that China’s coal consumption dropped in 2014. Xinhua: China’s coal production appears to have fallen for the first time since 2000 [In Chinese]. http://news.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2015-01/23/c_1114112421.htm

[2] Based on China Statistical Yearbook 2014, coal consumption growth slowed from an average of 6.1% per year between 2007-2011, to 2.6% on average between 2012-2013

[3] http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2014/12/17/china-coal-peak-iea-missed/