Global use of coal is heading for its biggest fall in history this year, an analysis by green campaigners suggests.
Coal consumption has dropped by at least 2.3% – and possibly as much as 4.6% – between January and September 2015 compared to consumption for the same period in 2014, the assessment by Greenpeace said.
The fall is led by reductions in the use of coal for power in China, driven by economic rebalancing, attempts to cut air pollution and significant growth in renewable energy – and in the US, where more than 200 coal plants have closed or been scheduled for retirement.
In the UK, 17 coal fired power stations have been closed since 2013, and coal use fell by more than 10% in the first half of 2015.
Another 12 plants are earmarked for closure next year, meaning that almost half of the coal-fired generation the UK had at the beginning of 2013 will be closed by 2016, according to the analysis.
Europe as a whole has not seen a rebound from record falls in use of the fossil fuel last year, Greenpeace said.
India has seen significant growth in coal power in recent years, but the environmental group said that had appeared to have petered out with an increasing number of plants sitting idle, finding it uneconomic to operate.
The falls come despite the low price of coal which would be expected to stimulate demand, the assessment said.
Lauri Myllyvirta, coal and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said: “These trends show that the so-called global coal boom in the first decade of the 21st century was a mirage.
“There was a Chinese coal boom, but that disguised what was happening in the rest of the world.”
“Coal is in terminal decline, and those countries investing in coal for export markets are making reckless decisions.
“They will be scarring the landscape and damaging the climate with little prospect of a return on their investment.”
Greenpeace warns that coal consumption has to fall 4% every year from now until 2040 to keep global temperature rises – driven by the emissions caused by burning fossil fuels – to no more than 2C, beyond which dangerous climate change is expected.