Global electricity generation from coal fell by 3 per cent last year making it the biggest reduction for almost 30 years, new analysis shows.
Coal-fired generation fell by 24% in the European Union and 16% in the U.S. previous year and now stands at half of 2007 levels in both regions, Ember, formerly Sandbag, noted in a report published on Monday.
Moreover, China saw a 2% increase in coal-fired power generation, pushing it to just over half of the world's electricity from this energy source.
Data on the global electricity sector, while promising, shows that a more concentrated worldwide effort will be required if warming is to be limited to 1.5 degrees - the target beyond which scientists say the effects of climate change will be catastrophic. In the USA, in contrast, renewables have grown, but gas is more prominent in the transition away from coal, limiting the resulting fall in emissions to between 19 per cent and 32 per cent.
While coal power usage has collapsed in both the European Union and the United States, the use of electricity sourced from the fossil fuel grew in contrast in China past year, with the country now responsible for half of the world's coal generation, the report found.More news: Man United host exciting 16-year-old at Carrington training ground
The fall in coal is partly due to a structural shift towards wind and solar but also relied on one-off factors, such as nuclear generation being restarted in Japan.
Coal generation needs to fall by 11 percent a year to keep within a warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 Fahrenheit).
'But governments have to dramatically accelerate the electricity transition so that global coal generation collapses throughout the 2020s.
The researchers' analysis also revealed that the growth in demand for electricity has slowed down to 1.4 per cent - the smallest increase since the 2009 recession - due to a combination of low economic growth and a milder winter in the European Union and the US. Since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015, China has seen a 17 percent spike in coal generation - despite falls in the rest of the world.
As noted by Ember, another obstacle is the fact that even those abandoning coal are sometimes embracing other fossil fuels.More news: WHO Officially Declares Coronavirus Outbreak a Pandemic
But he said that without concerted efforts to boost wind and solar, the world would fail to meet climate targets.
Jones described the situation in China as alarming but pointed to examples elsewhere offering low carbon solutions for economies moving away from coal.
"It came from the lowest electricity demand increase since the 2009 recession; it came because of some coal-to-gas switching in the USA and the European Union; it came from good hydro and nuclear availability throughout the world".
The report incorporates 2019 electricity generation data covering 85 per cent of the world's electricity generation, including information from China, the US, India and European Union, and informed estimates of the remaining 15 per cent.
The global power-related Carbon dioxide savings were not achieved by green power alone, as the Ember report noted.More news: Florida Department of Health announces 8 new positive cases of COVID-19