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China’s Energy Use Per Person Surpasses Europe’s for First Time

(Bloomberg) — China’s energy use per person surpassed Europe’s for the first time last year as demand from technology and manufacturing industries continued to climb.

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The country ramped up coal-fired generation, but also added more renewable capacity than the rest of the world combined, according to the Energy Institute’s annual Statistical Review. That means the carbon intensity of its energy is actually falling.

Chinese consumption is being driven by the expansion of data centers, 5G infrastructure and car charging, while many factories are also running at full tilt to meet demand for goods overseas.

“We should not ignore the energy and emissions that Europeans have effectively exported to Chinese manufacturers,” EI Chief Executive Officer Nick Wayth said.

There’s mounting evidence that dependence on fossil fuels in major advanced economies may have peaked. In Europe last year, they accounted for less than 70% of primary energy for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, thanks to lower demand and renewables growth, according to EI.

That underlines the decarbonization dilemma for many countries. If a decline in energy consumption and emissions in Europe simply boosts carbon output elsewhere, policies to tackle global climate change aren’t working.

Coal use also increased in India last year amid rapid economic growth. For the first time, the country consumed more of the polluting fuel than Europe and North America combined, according to the statistical review.

“The big picture masks diverse energy stories playing out across different geographies,” Wayth said. “In advanced economies we observe signs of demand for fossil fuels peaking, contrasting with economies in the Global South, for whom economic development and improvements in quality of life continue to drive fossil growth.”

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