The shift away from coal in most of the world's major economies comes as U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to revive the fuel, having promised during his election campaign to restore lost jobs in mining areas such as West Virginia.
China still accounted for about half of the coal burned in the world a year ago, but consumption of the fuel fell 1.6 percent, according to BP's annual Statistical Review of World Energy. USA demand for coal fell by 33.4 million tons of oil equivalent previous year to 358.4 million tons of oil equivalent, the biggest decline in the world in absolute terms, according to BP.
In perhaps a sign of things to come, China overtook the U.S.as the largest single producer of renewables, while Europe and Eurasia were overtaken by Asia Pacific as the world's largest renewable power producing region.
BP chief economist Spencer Dale believes the turnaround in the fortunes of coal over the past few years is stark. These include "the increasing availability and competitiveness of natural gas and renewable energy, combined with mounting government and societal pressure to shift away from coal towards cleaner, lower-carbon fuels".
Trump's bet against this global structural trend is literally tilting at windmills.
Indian energy demand grew 5.4 per cent last year, in line with recent growth rates, but China's energy use rose by just 1.3 per cent, representing around a quarter of its 10-year average growth.
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With coal's demise, growth in planet-warming carbon emissions has flattened even as global demand for energy continues to rise. China's coal production fell by almost 8 percent. The 2017 edition of the Review reveals that global carbon emissions only grew by 0.1% in 2016, marking the third year in a row that recorded flat or falling emissions, and the lowest three-year average for emissions growth since 1981-83.
The demand for coal slumped by 1.7 percent globally, but more striking is that the global production of coal fell by a massive 6.2 percent. The United States also contributed to this decline, with coal consumption falling by 33 mtoe, while coal consumption in the UK more than halved, down 12 mtoe, or 52.5%.
The company said while renewables still only met four per cent of total primary energy demand globally, the growth in renewables represented nearly a third of the total growth in energy demand in 2016.
China's energy demand growth in 2015 and 2016, 1.2 and 1.3 percent respectively, although still the strongest in the world, marked its lowest over a two-year period since 1997-98.
This week, BP released its Statistical Review of World Energy on 2016 data.
The Asian Development Bank will double its investments on clean energy initiatives to $2 billion a year by 2013 to significantly dampen carbon growth and.
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