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China’s been using way more coal than we thought

China Daily Life - PollutionChina Daily Life - Pollution
A Chinese man wears a mask as he waits to cross the road near the CCTV building during heavy smog on November 29, 2014 in Beijing, China. Photograph by Kevin Frayer — Getty Images

China has long been the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal. Last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that it accounted for almost half of the world’s global coal consumption.

But a new report by the EIA says that China’s coal statistics have been significantly underestimated. According to the report, China consumed 14% more coal than previously reported between 2000 and 2013. That means the country’s total primary energy consumption was underestimated, too. Meanwhile, the report says China also produced 7% more coal than previously thought.

This upward revision means that China might have been emitting far more greenhouse gas than experts once believed–a crucial piece of information in the lead-up to an important United Nations climate change conference this December.

The report provides further evidence that Chinese coal use has started to peak–production fell 2% this year last year and consumption was flat, the EIA said. Much of that decline can be attributed to the Chinese government, which has aggressively shifted energy production away from coal and toward cleaner sources like natural gas as pollution becomes an escalating problem across the country.