DEVELOPING NATIONS BUY IN
In the global push to phase out coal, China and India will carry a strikingly high proportion of the total burden in future decades. China alone accounts for around half the world’s coal consumption. But the country is investing heavily in wind, solar, nuclear and hydro power, and brought online 55 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in renewable and nuclear power in 2014.
In the next five years coal will already make up a notably smaller portion of its electricity mix. “We estimate that from 2014 to 2020 China’s share of coal will fall from 29 per cent to 27 per cent of total primary energy,” the IEA said in its 2015 medium-term market report for coal. “If a deep restructuring in China leads to the peak coal case, there would be an even steeper decline to 26 per cent.”
Much of China’s diminishing domestic coal capacity will be replaced by natural gas, which is expected to rise threefold by 2040 according the U.S. Energy Information Administration, rom 5.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2012 to 17.5 Tcf in 2040. About 60 per cent of global natural gas supplies to China will come from “unconventional sources”, by today’s definition, and LNG imports will make up a big portion of that supply.
India’s energy needs are less than that of China’s today, but its future demand is rising fast. India’s population is expected to reach 1.7 billion by 2050, meaning it will have to add an estimated 15 GW of electricity every year for the next 30 years to meet demand. Because it doesn’t possess nearly the kind of domestic natural gas supplies as China, India is looking to renewables to help it shift away from coal. But natural gasfired power supplies are still expected to more than double by 2030, according to a report by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board based in New Delhi.
How quickly each country steers away from fossil fuels is a matter mostly of political will. Indian voters and Chinese consumers, like everywhere else, aren’t generally willing to cover the costs of more expensive energy supplies, particularly in tough economic times. Shifting away from coal also depends on if developed countries provide financial support to China and India to lessen the pain. Developed countries like the U.S, after all, rose to power while emitting huge amounts of carbon without restriction. It would be unfair to make developing nations today shoulder the cost of cutting emissions.