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Peak Coal: China's Carbon Emissions Drop as the Use of Coal Slows

In the long struggle to reduce the impacts of climate change, we may have finally hit a positive milestone, as China's use of coal peaked in 2014.
August 10, 2016, 12pm PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Francisco Anzola

Some are calling the recent reports of China hitting peak coal usage in 2014 "a real turning point" in the battle against climate change. As Damian Carrington of The Guardian reports, the reduced consumption of coal by the biggest polluting country on the planet may be a significant milestone in climate action, influencing other nations to follow suit in their reduction of carbon emissions. China's reduced use of coal puts them years ahead of the 2030 goal to reduce their carbon emission.

“I think it is a real turning point,” said Lord Nicholas Stern, an eminent climate economist at the London School of Economics, who wrote the analysis with colleagues from Tsinghua University in Beijing. “I think historians really will see [the coal peak of] 2014 as a very important event in the history of the climate and economy of the world.”

The team’s analysis, published in the Nature Geoscience journal, concludes that China’s coal peak “may well be an important milestone in the Anthropocene and a turning point in international efforts to [cut] the emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases”.

Coal usage is down primarily thanks to a slowing Chinese economy and what Carrington describes as the "transformation of the Chinese economy away from heavy industry and towards more hi-tech and service sectors, which are much less dependent on energy." The energy sector has also seen the introduction of renewable energy systems, which have begun to replace coal usage.

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Published on Monday, July 25, 2016 in The Guardian
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