China now burns nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined.
The country’s appetite for the carbon-intensive fuel rose by 9% in 2011, to 3.8bn tonnes, meaning it now accounts for 47% of worldwide coal consumption.
The growth, revealed by US government figures on Tuesday, was driven by China’s booming economy, which has grown at an average rate of around 10% over the past decade. China overtook the US as the world’s biggest carbon emitter in 2007, and became the world’s biggest consumer of energy in 2010.
Research out last November suggested that 1,000 new coal-fired power plants are planned worldwide, with 363 in China and 455 in India. If all the plants were built, it would put the world on “a really dangerous trajectory” for climate change, experts at the World Resources Institute said.
China’s air pollution problem, highlighted this month by record-breaking bad air quality in Beijing, is caused by a mix of power plants, factories, cars, construction and farmers burning coal for heat.
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