China's coal usage may peak by 2020, experts say

Updated: 2016-07-26 12:53

By Fu Jing in Brussels(

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The uncoupling of China's economic growth from coal consumption in recent years means the peak year of coal burning may arrive by 2020 as China ushers in a new pattern of green growth, according to two experts in China and UK.

Qi Ye, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy of Tsinghua University in Beijing and Nicholas Stern, head of the UK-based Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, drew the conclusion in a jointly-authored paper published on Monday on Nature Geo-science website. The magazine will run it early next week.

"We have long kept track on the trends of China's consumption of coal, which accounts for the lion's share of energy mix supporting the rapid economic growth of the country for decades," Qi said during an interview with China Daily.

"We have noticed that China's economic growth has been on the right track but the coal consumption has been decreasing, which is a de-link this country would like to meet."

Qi and Stern, who used to be chief economist of the World Bank, concluded in the paper that the peak year of coal consumption in China may occur ahead of previous forecasts. They believe the peak year should occur between 2020-2040, depending on how China transforms its development patterns.

Official figures have shown China's coal consumption has decreased by 2.9 percent and 3.6 percent year-on-year in 2014 and 2015 respectively. However, China's economy has grown by roughly an annual rate of seven percent in previous two years.

China's economy has until now been largely powered by coal consumption and the volume had grown from 1.36 billion tons in 2000 to 4.24 billion tons in 2013, with an averaged annual growth rate of 12 percent. Such a pace roughly followed the rate of the economic growth.

Coal's share in total energy consumption has dropped from about 75 percent, which was a long-standing figure for decades, to 64.4 percent in 2015, a historic low since China's modernization process began.

"Many new figures and trends have indicated that China has been basically saying goodbye to the old pattern of development which relies on energy and resource consumption, and it has embarked on sustainable and inclusive path of growth," said Qi.