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How Far Are We From Phasing Out Coal?

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How Far Are We From Phasing Out Coal?

How Far Are We From Phasing Out Coal?

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At the COP26 conference last year, 40 nations agreed to phase coal out of their energy mixes.

Despite this, in 2021, coal-fired electricity generation reached all-time highs globally, showing that eliminating coal from the energy mix will not be a simple task.

This infographic shows the aggressive phase-out of coal power that would be required in order to reach net zero goals by 2050, based on an analysis by Ember that uses data provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Low-Cost Comes at a High Environmental Cost

Coal-powered electricity generation rose by 9.0% in 2021 to 10,042 Terawatt-hours (TWh), marking the biggest percentage rise since 1985.

The main reason is cost. Coal is the world’s most affordable energy fuel. Unfortunately, low-cost energy comes at a high cost for the environment, with coal being the largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions.

China has the highest coal consumption, making up 54% of the world’s coal electricity generation. The country’s consumption jumped 12% between 2010 and 2020, despite coal making up a lower percentage of the country’s energy mix in relative terms.

Top Consumers2020 Consumption (Exajoules) Share of global consumption
China 🇨🇳82.354.3%
India 🇮🇳17.511.6%
United States 🇺🇸9.26.1%
Japan 🇯🇵4.63.0%
South Africa 🇿🇦3.52.3%
Russia 🇷🇺3.32.2%
Indonesia 🇮🇩3.32.2%
South Korea 🇰🇷3.02.0%
Vietnam 🇻🇳2.11.4%
Germany 🇩🇪1.81.2%

Together, China and India account for 66% of global coal consumption and emit about 35% of the world’s greenhouse gasses (GHG). If you add the United States to the mix, this goes up to 72% of coal consumption and 49% of GHGs.

How Urgent is to Phase Out Coal?

According to the United Nations, emissions from current and planned fossil energy infrastructure are already more than twice the amount that would push the planet over 1.5°C of global heating, a level that scientists say could bring more intense heat, fire, storms, flooding, and drought than the present 1.2°C.

Apart from being the largest source of CO2 emissions, coal combustion is also a major threat to public health because of the fine particulate matter released into the air.

As just one example of this impact, a recent study from Harvard University estimates air pollution from fossil fuel combustion is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths globally.

The Move to Renewables

Coal-powered electricity generation must fall by 13% every year until 2030 to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals of keeping global heating to only 1.5 degrees.

To reach the mark, countries would need to speed up the shift from their current carbon-intensive pathways to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

How fast the transition away from coal will be achieved depends on a complicated balance between carbon emissions cuts and maintaining economic growth, the latter of which is still largely dependent on coal power.

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Oil and Gas

How Oil Is Adding Fuel to Geopolitical Fragmentation

Which countries and regions decreased, banned, or increased Russian oil imports following the 2022 invasion of Ukraine?

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A preview Sankey chart showing Russian oil imported by country from 2021 to 2023.

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The following content is sponsored by The Hinrich Foundation

How Oil Is Adding Fuel to Global Fragmentation

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led to severe bans or restrictions on Russian oil from the West. Meanwhile, other nations—including China, India, and Türkiye—opted to deepen trade ties with the country.

This graphic from the Hinrich Foundation is the final visualization in a three-part series covering the future of trade. It provides visual context to the growing divide among countries shunning Russian oil versus those taking advantage of the excess supply.

Which Countries Have Decreased or Banned Russian Oil Imports?

This analysis uses data from the IEA’s February 2024 Oil Market Report on Russian oil exports from 2021 to 2023.

Following the invasion, both the U.S. and the UK enacted a complete ban on Russian crude. Imports dropped from 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2021 to zero by late-2022. 

Country/Region2021 (bpd)2022 (bpd)2023 (bpd)Change; 2021-2023 (bpd)
EU3.3M3.0M600K-2.7M
UK & U.S.600K100K0-600K
OECD Asia500K200K0-500K

Similarly, the EU, which has historically been more reliant on oil from Russia, dropped imports by over 80%, from 3.3 million bpd in 2021 to 600,000 bpd in 2023.

OECD Asia-Pacific—which includes Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand—also slashed their Russian oil imports. 

Which Countries Have Increased Imports of Russian Oil?

The pullback in demand for Russian crude from the West created a buying opportunity for countries and regions that chose not to support Western sanctions. 

Country/Region2021 (bpd)2022 (bpd)2023 (bpd)Change; 2021-2023 (bpd)
India100K900K1.9M+1.8M
China1.6M1.9M2.3M+700K
Türkiye200K400K700K+500K
Africa100K100K400K+300K
Middle East100K200K300K+200K
Latin America100K100K200K+100K
Other800K600K900K+100K

India increased its imports of oil from Russia, by the largest amount from 2021 to 2023—up to 1.9 million bpd from only 100,000 bpd

China, the biggest net importer, also saw a large uptick. The country boosted imports for Russian oil by over 40% over this timeframe. Türkiye increased imports of Russian crude by an additional 500,000 bpd

Several other regions—such as Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America—saw slight upticks in imports. 

Shifting Trade Dependencies

The dynamics present in the global crude market underscore broader trends in Russia’s trade relationships. Russia is becoming increasingly less economically reliant on the West and more reliant on China. 

From 2022 to 2023, the largest upward shift in the UNCTAD’s bilateral trade dependency estimates was Russia’s increased reliance upon China (+7.1%). 

DependentDepending OnAnnual Change
RussiaChina+7.1%
UkraineEU+5.8%
BrazilChina+3.0%

Note: Trade dependencies are calculated by UNCTAD as the ratio of two countries’ bilateral trade over the total trade of the dependent economy.

In fact, China threw a lifeline to Russia in the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion. The Atlantic Council reported that Chinese exports to Russia have grown 121% since 2021, while exports to the rest of the world have increased by only 29% in the same period.  

In contrast, Russia also exhibited a large decrease in reliance on the EU (-5.3%). South Korea and the U.S. have made shifts to further distance themselves from China as geopolitical tensions continue to mount.

DependentDepending OnAnnual Change
RussiaEU-5.3%
South KoreaChina-1.2%
U.S.China-1.2%

As the Russian oil market shows, geopolitical tensions have the potential to significantly impact trade. Though Russian crude exports remained steady amid the conflict, this necessitated a shift in its main trading partners. 

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Visit the Hinrich Foundation to learn more about the future of geopolitical trade

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