Coal has reached its highest market share of global energy consumption for more than 40 years, figures reveal, despite fears that its high carbon emissions make it a prime cause of climate change.
The use of coal for power generation and other purposes grew by 3% in 2013 – faster than any other fossil fuel – while its share of the market breached 30% for the first time since 1970, the BP Statistical Review reports.
The figures were published as Prof Nick Stern, author of the influential climate change report the Stern Review, said his latest research indicated the economic risks of unchecked climate change were bigger than previously estimated.
Europe is among the regions using more coal, increasing imports from the US, where coal has been displaced in power stations by even cheaper shale gas. But developing countries such as China and India are also huge coal users, although BP pointed out that energy growth overall in China dropped to 4.7% last year from 8.4% in 2012.
Christof Ruhl, BP’s chief economist and author of its statistical review, said this “dramatic slowdown” put a question mark over China’s official economic growth figure for 2013 of 7.7%.
The accuracy of Chinese economic statistics have long been a subject for debate but few are willing to directly challenge them for fear of upsetting such an important emerging powerhouse.
“It is not easy to reconcile the slowdown in energy growth numbers and official [gross domestic product] numbers … you can draw your own conclusions from that,”Ruhl said.