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Coal demand is making it difficult to get carbon emissions under control

Overall coal demand moved up slightly in 2018, by 0.7%, as higher use in India and China offset declines in Europe and the U.S., according to the IEA data on coal.

Data: IEA; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Why it matters: The persistence of CO2-intensive, coal-fired power generation in the wider global energy mix is one reason why worldwide emissions are so difficult to bring under control.

Where it stands: Coal's share of the expanding overall global energy pie is declining as renewables, gas, oil and nuclear grow more quickly.

But, but, but: Carbon emissions from coal-fired plants are nonetheless growing in absolute terms as the chart above shows, and coal remains the largest source of worldwide electricity production, IEA said.

  • "Coal-fired power generation continues to be the single largest emitter, accounting for 30% of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions," the report states.
  • Coal-fired power was also the single biggest source of last year's global emissions growth.

IEA points out that a big chunk of that coal-fired generation comes from fairly young plants in Asia, where "average plants are only 12 years old, decades younger than their average economic lifetime of around 40 years."