Peak China Coal Update

Some cheering news to start the year with. Remember my announcement in August of peak Chinese coal?  Premature, you thought, on the basis of a Greenpeace Asia blog and a garbled translation from an unknown Chinese business information company?

Well, the year is over and here is the reputable-looking Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis weighing in. An IEEFA report states, according to  Platts:

In 2014, coal demand actually declined by 2.1%.

The IEEFA have a reputation to lose, unlike me, so they cautiously predict that China’s coal demand “will permanently peak by 2016, if not earlier.” I see no reason not to take the drop at face value. GDP growth was 7.3%, on trend. Chinese coal burning has peaked.

Of course, to save the climate it still has to drop, and by a lot. But this is still very, very good news.

In November I was puzzled why the Chinese government only promised Obama a CO2 target it will easily meet with no change in policy, allowing for a large increase in coal-burning it won’t need. A hypothesis I didn’t think of then is that China can now very easily announce stronger goals in its national offer for the Paris climate talks. The USA’s side of the bilateral deal is already at the limit of what can be achieved by executive action. So China will look good, and deflect criticism from the most vulnerable countries to the USA as laggard.

Attention will also shift to India, whose plans for a massive increase in coal-burning will isolate it. My (Pollyannish?) prediction here is that Modi will realize that Coal India’s promises are worthless and scale back the coal plans. He’s bet his political future anyway on solar energy and might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.

PS on the bad news front: I’ve nothing to add to Ezra Klein on the atrocious crime in Paris to silence Charlie Hebdo. I rarely looked at it while I lived in France – crude and fiery anticlericalism is a taste I never acquired. But as I shall be in France next week, I plan to buy a copy of their special 1-million print run edition. The usual circulation is 45,000. I hope they sell every copy. Feel free to comment here on this.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]