Coal decline spurs decarbonisation

1st November 2016


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Generation ,
  • Conventional

Author

William Willis

A reduction in coal use has boosted decarbonisation in the G20, particularly in China and the UK, according to consultancy PwC.

The consultancy’s latest annual Low Carbon Intensity Index (LCEI), which tracks the progress G20 countries have made to decarbonise their economies since 2000, revealed that China’s carbon intensity fell by 6.4% between 2014 and 2015, with most of the reduction due to declining coal consumption.

China consumes half the global output of coal, so changes that affect use in China have global significance for the coal market and emissions. In 2015, coal consumption in China fell by 1.5% or 29 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), which compares with total UK use of 23Mtoe last year.

The fall has been the most significant factor in levelling China’s emissions and is partly the result of policies to improve air quality and power plant efficiency, PwC found. Solar power grew by 70% in 2015 in the country.

Despite the decline in coal use, China had the second highest carbon intensity in the G20, at 475 tonnes CO2 per $ million. South Africa had the highest. By contrast, the UK had the third lowest carbon intensity of the G20, at 157 tonnes CO2 per $ million, achieving a 6% reduction between 2014 and 2015.

Jonathan Grant, sustainability and climate change director at PwC, said: ‘The decarbonisation of the UK’s economy is well established now, and underlined by recent announcements on adopting the fifth carbon budget, the approval of the Hinkley C nuclear power project and confirmation of the government’s intent to ratify the Paris Agreement.’

For the second year running, the UK’s consumption of coal fell by over 20%, he added.

According to PwC, this decline is largely the result of the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive and the domestic policy to close all coal-fired power plants by 2025.

Coal makes up around 12.2% of the UK energy mix, the consultancy said, while generation from renewable sources has risen to 9.1%. Two years ago coal’s share of the energy mix was more than three times that of renewables, PwC noted.

It highlighted the rise of the service sector as an important factor in reducing the UK’s carbon intensity. Services now account for 80% of total UK jobs and is expected to continue growing, whereas manufacturing has declined, with output falling in 2015 after being relatively flat since early 2011.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said the results of the PwC index demonstrated the importance of falling coal use in decoupling economic growth from the rising greenhouse-gas emissions. ‘The success has largely come from reducing use of coal, especially in China which has taken extraordinary steps this year to clean up its act and is now erecting two wind turbines every hour. And that is very significant, because climate science is unequivocal in showing that switching away from coal is an essential first step in keeping climate change within “safe” limits,’ he said.

Overall, the world’s major economies achieved a decarbonisation rate of 2.8% rate between 2014 and 2015, exceeding the 2.5% growth of the global economy over the same period, Black added.

However, an annual decarbonisation rate of 6.5% is needed to stay within the two degree limit, PwC calculated.

Carbon intensity rose in Indonesia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Italy between 2014 and 2015.

Click here for an interactive graphic of PwC’s findings.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

How much is too much?

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

In 2020, IEMA and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) jointly wrote and published A User Guide to Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. This has now been updated to include three key developments in the field.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Hello and welcome to another edition of Transform. I hope that you’ve had a good and productive few months so far.

28th March 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close