China coal consumption falls for third year

Beijing (AFP) - China's world-leading coal consumption fell for the third straight year in 2016, government data showed Tuesday, as the planet's biggest carbon emitter struggles to break its addiction to the heavily polluting fuel.

Coal consumption fell by 4.7 percent year-on-year in 2016, and the share of coal in the country's energy mix slipped to 62.0 percent, down 2.0 percent year-on-year, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a report.

Overall coal production also fell, dropping 9.0 percent to 3.41 billion tonnes in 2016.

The data suggests that "coal consumption probably peaked around 2014," according to a statement from environmental group China Dialogue.

It added that "there is still some concern about a 'rebound' in coal demand if China continues to stimulate its economy by infrastructure investment".

The new data suggests that China's CO2 emissions may drop by as much as one percent in 2017, Greenpeace said in a statement, adding it would be the "fourth year in a row of either zero growth or a decline".

"These trends give some hope that the global peak in emissions might well be within reach, but only if all major emitters break free from fossil fuels and reduce emissions," said the organisation?s policy adviser Li Shuo, warning that the outcome would depend on cooperation from the US under President Donald Trump.

The billionaire politician once claimed that climate change is a Chinese hoax and has said he will roll back American environmental regulations aimed at curbing the problem.

Meanwhile, ?China is ploughing money into renewables and reining in its addiction to coal," Li said.

In December Beijing said it would reduce its annual coal production capacity by 800 million tonnes as it tries to tackle unsafe and inefficient mines and reduce pollution.

The burning of coal for electricity and heating contributes most of China's greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of its notorious smog.

Severe smog has caused increasing public discontent, particularly in winter, when large swathes of the northeast are often choked by bad air.

The government has vowed to reduce consumption of polluting energy sources, but the move also has an economic logic.

Many of the country's giant state-owned coal mining firms are now unviable and plagued by overcapacity, leading the government to curb output.