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China Reducing Coal Use, Shifting to Clean Energy

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A positive step for climate change and the environment

As the world's largest consumer of coal, China accounts for 50 percent of its consumption, which rose from 1.36 billion tons in 2000 to over 4.24 billions tons by 2013. Many economists predicted a peak in coal consumption for the nation to occur anywhere between 2020 and 2040, as coal accounted for majority of its energy generation.

A new analysis indicates that China's coal use trend may have already peaked in 2013 or 2014, as consumption rates have remained flat and slightly declined in the past two years. The declines occurred while economic growth still saw an average gain for both years of roughly 7 percent, indicating a decoupling of economic growth from coal use growth.

Since China's rapid economic growth began thirty-five years ago, coal has accounted for at least 75 percent of China's total energy mix, which was in line with the nation's industrialization. In 2015, its place in the energy mix dropped to 64.4 percent, supporting its lower coal consumption rates over the previous five years.

Two factors are said to have influenced the reduction in the nation's coal consumption, the economic downturn during the global financial crisis - most noticeably in the construction and manufacturing sectors - and stronger policies on air pollution and clean energy implemented in 2006 and strengthened in 2011.

Political pressure

Many of these policies came in response to increased political pressure on the nation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air pollution in an attempt to mitigate climate change.

A reduction in the use of coal was a key factor in meeting the policy goals set forth in 2006 and 2011, but investment by China in renewable and sustainable energy sources has also helped reduce reliance on coal including wind, solar, nuclear, and hydropower.

Long term commitment

The Energy Development Strategic Action Plan put forth by the government shows a long term commitment to reducing air pollution and the development of clean energy.

The plan seeks to reduce coal in the nation's energy mix by 2020 from 66 percent to less than 62 percent, increasing non-fossil fuels to at least 15 percent from 11 percent. Technological innovation is also a priority for China in communications, energy, and manufacturing, where policies are helping to enhance long-term growth across the nation.

Shift to clean energy

China now accounts for one-third of the global investment in clean energy, compared to its nearly non-existent presence in the renewable energy industry a decade ago.

This shift in policies by China, the worlds largest consumer of coal, to develop clean renewable, and sustainable energy, is extremely crucial for mitigating the global effects of climate change, and limiting its impact on populations around the world.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.