Statistics From China Say Coal Consumption Continues to Drop – by Edward Wong (New York Times – March 4, 2016)

BEIJING — China has released new statistics indicating that it used less coal last year than in 2014, lending support to the view that the country, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, may have reached a peak in coal consumption.

That would be a boon for global efforts to limit climate change, since industrial coal burning is the primary source of greenhouse gases. The new data, released on Monday by the National Bureau of Statistics, said coal consumption had fallen 3.7 percent in 2015 compared with the previous year. It was the second straight year of decline, according to the bureau, which said coal use had dropped 2.9 percent in 2014.

Much of the world is watching China’s actions on carbon emissions, since it is responsible for about half of the world’s coal consumption. President Xi Jinping has said that China intends for its greenhouse gas emissions to stop growing around 2030. Some climate experts in China say the peak could come earlier, closer to 2025.

Official Chinese statistics can be unreliable, and there is evidence that officials have tried to censor or hide economic data. But they have also shown some transparency on coal consumption numbers. Last year, the government released data that corrected annual coal consumption figures since 2000, revealing that China had burned much more coal than previously thought. Older numbers had been based on faulty data collection, particularly from small companies and factories.

Coal use has dropped in China because the country’s economic growth has slowed considerably in recent years. The government is also enacting policies to curb coal use in large population centers in eastern China, to bring down extraordinary levels of air pollution.

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