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The role of coal in the global energy system declines, driven by China

Coal consumption
Coal consumption
Change in coal demand by sector and region, 2018-2050
Change in coal demand by sector and region, 2018-2050

Global coal consumption declines consistently over the next 30 years in all three scenarios, never ‎recovering back to its peak level of 2013. 


The scale of the decline is particularly pronounced in Rapid and Net Zero, in which coal is almost ‎entirely eliminated from the global energy system over the next 30 years, falling between 85-‎‎90%, with the share of coal in primary energy dropping to less than 5% by 2050 in both scenarios. ‎

The fall in coal demand in Rapid and Net Zero is dominated by China as it shifts to a more ‎sustainable pattern of growth and a lower carbon fuel mix. Declines in Chinese coal consumption ‎account for around half of the overall fall in global demand in these two scenarios, supported by ‎declines in OECD, India and Other Asia.‎

The contraction in coal consumption is less pronounced in BAU, falling by around 25% by 2050, ‎with the speed of that decline accelerating through the Outlook. China accounts for the vast ‎majority of the fall, followed by the US and the EU. The overall fall in global coal consumption is ‎partially mitigated by continuing increases in India and Other Asia. By 2050, developing Asia ‎‎(China, India and Other Asia) accounts for over 80% of total coal consumption in BAU.‎

The falls in coal consumption are concentrated in the power and industrial sectors. In Rapid and ‎Net Zero, the power sector accounts for around two-thirds of the decline as power generation is ‎largely decarbonized; whereas in BAU, the falls are distributed roughly evenly between the two ‎sectors. By 2050, the power sector accounts for around two-thirds of the remaining use of coal in ‎BAU (see Power for a discussion of the prospects for coal-fired power generation in India). ‎

In both Rapid and Net Zero, most of the coal consumption remaining in 2050 is used in ‎conjunction with CCUS, concentrated in the power sector and the production of blue hydrogen.‎

The falls in global coal demand are matched on the supply side by significant falls in Chinese coal ‎production, which accounts for the vast majority of the production declines in both Rapid and ‎BAU. ‎