A new study reveals that China’s coal use peaked in 2014, marking a “real turning point” in the fight against climate change. Economists at China’s Tsinghua University and the London School of Economics said this peak is likely a permanent trend – which is significant, as China produces more emissions than any other country in the world.
Between 2000 and 2013, China’s coal consumption tripled. During those years, the country produced billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide. Since then, coal production and coal burning have fallen for several reasons. For starters, China’s economy has moved from heavy industry towards technology, and there’s been a greater emphasis on energy efficiency. Further, the Chinese government has turned its attention to dealing with water and air pollution.
Lord Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics, co-author on the paper, told The Guardian “I think historians really will see [the coal peak of] 2014 as a very important even in the history of the climate and economy of the world.”
The economists said the peak could be a breakthrough in the Anthropocene Era, or the geological period in which human influences alter the environment. Stern said other nations might be influenced by China’s shift, bringing the world closer to goals set in the Paris agreement.
The New Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Patricia Espinosa described the peak as a “very positive development.” She said, “It underlines how ambitious and deliberate policies to shift away from highly polluting fuels to cleaner energy sources can deliver global climate benefits and national improvements in health and indeed in people’s lives.”
Via The Guardian