The rise marks a rebound for global demand, which fell 4.4% in the first year of the pandemic.

Most of the bounce back is driven by China and India, where demand for energy is expected to boost coal consumption in 2021 by 4% and 13.4%, respectively.

Coal is the world’s largest source of energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions.

“The pledges to reach net-zero emissions made by many countries, including China and India, should have very strong implications for coal — but these are not yet visible in our near-term forecast,” writes the IEA in the report.

Though coal consumption in the U.S. and European Union is expected to rise by 17% and 12% respectively, in 2021, demand for coal in both regions is likely to remain below 2019 levels and is set to resume its decline through 2024, according to the IEA.

The decline in both the EU and U.S. is being fueled in part by an expansion of electricity generated from wind and solar power, which are rapidly overtaking coal in power generation. Coal is on track to provide 36% of global power in 2021, 5 percentage points below its 2007 peak.

Global coal consumption (megatons)

CAAGR = compound average annual growth rate. Data for 2019 and 2020 are from IEA statistics; 2021 are estimated; 2024 are forecasts. Differences in totals are due to rounding. Source: IEA

Between them, China and India will consume nearly two-thirds (65%) of the world’s coal in 2021.

“These two economies — dependent on coal and with a combined population of almost 3 billion people — hold the key to future coal demand,” the IEA said.

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Coal 2021, Analysis and forecast to 2024, International Energy Agency (December 2021)

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