China Will Place a Limit on Coal Use in 2020

China plans to set a cap on coal consumption in 2020, an important step for the country in trying to achieve a recently announced goal of having carbon dioxide emissions peak by around 2030.

Worldwide, coal burning for industrial use is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, which are the biggest catalyst of global climate change. China is the biggest emitter of greenhouses gases in the world, and it uses as much coal each year as the rest of the world combined.

Last week, President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced a joint pledge to cut or limit carbon dioxide emissions from his country.

China said it would reach an emissions peak “around 2030” and energy from sources other than fossil fuels would make up 20 percent of the total mix by that year. That announcement was praised by environmental advocates as a significant political move by the two nations.

Last year, China consumed 3.61 billion tons of coal, and coal made up 66 percent of the primary energy mix. Li Shuo, a researcher at Greenpeace East Asia, said those figures indicate that China’s goals for 2020 should be more ambitious.

China’s recent announcements on coal consumption and the 2030 emissions peak could weaken arguments in the United States by opponents of President Obama’s climate change policy, who often ask why America should act if China is not committed, said Alex L. Wang, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who studies Chinese environmental policy and regulations.