China has managed to reduce its coal consumption for a third straight year as the energy-hungry country struggles to reduce its dependency on the heavily polluting fuel.
The National Bureau of Statistics said in a report on Tuesday that coal consumption fell by an annual rate of 4.7 percent in 2016.
The report added that China’s overall coal production also fell in 2016, dropping 9.0 percent to 3.41 billion tons while the share of coal in the country's energy mix slipped to 62.0 percent, down 2.0 percent year-on-year.
Environmental activists welcomed the development but warned that China’s continued investment in the infrastructure, a policy the country pursues for stimulating its economy, would mean a rebound in coal demand.
China Dialogue, an environmental group, said in a statement that according to the new data, China was at the peak of its coal consumption in 2014 and there were concerns that higher energy demands could spur thirst for coal.
Greenpeace, another major environmental organization, said the declining trend of coal production and consumption in China could continue in the current year, saying China's CO2 emissions may drop by as much as one percent or it may face a zero growth in 2017.
“These trends give some hope that the global peak in emissions might well be within reach, but only if all major emitters break free from fossil fuels and reduce emissions,” said the Greenpeace, adding that a potential lack of cooperation from the United States would seriously affect the outcome of China’s policies on coal.
US President Donald Trump warned during his election campaign that he would roll back American environmental regulations aimed at curbing coal consumption. Trump said the climate change was a Chinese hoax.
China has suffered economically and environmentally from its addiction to coal for electricity and heating. China's greenhouse gas emission is the main cause of its notorious smog, particularly in winter, when people in large swathes of the northeast grapple with bad air.
Beijing announced plans in December for a reduction by 800 million tons in the country’s annual coal production capacity. The move is aimed at tackling the issues of inefficient mines and pollution. The government also aims to curb the output at the country's giant state-owned coal mining firms, as most of them have become unviable and plagued by overcapacity.