The growth in demand for coal has been slowing in recent years, and that trend will continue over the next five years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said this week.

Coal demand globally will grow at an average annual rate of 2.1 per cent through 2019, IEA said in its annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report.

That compares with the 2013 report’s forecast of 2.3 per cent for the five years through 2018 and the actual growth rate of 3.3 per cent per year between 2010 and 2013.

With its explosive growth, largely powered by coal, China is the world’s largest contributor to greenhouse gases.

“China has entered a more moderate path,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “Lower economic growth and also a lower energy-intensive economy and higher diversification will curtail coal growth in China in the coming years.”

China announced last month that it would peak carbon dioxide emissions by around 2030, with the intention to peak early. It also plans to increase to around 20 per cent the share of energy generated from non-fossil fuel sources.

“We do not expect coal demand in China to peak during the outlook period,” (2014-2019), van der Hoeven added.

The growth of coal use in Asian countries – which represent nearly 75 per cent of the world’s coal consumption – and in India will likely offset predicted modest declines in Europe and the United States, the report said.

And coal remains the world’s second-largest primary energy source. “In 2013, coal added more primary energy than any other fuel and was the fastest-growing fossil fuel,” said the IEA, which cited a 2.4 per cent increase in demand for coal last year.

“Coal use in its current form is simply unsustainable,” said van der Hoeven. “For this to change, we need to radically accelerate deployment of carbon capture and sequestration and high-efficiency, coal-fired power plants.”

Many newly built coal plants are based on decades-old technology, she said. “Regrettably, they will be burning coal inefficiently for many years to come.”

The report was issued a day after delegates at the Lima Conference on Climate Change completed the outline of a climate agreement to be signed next year in Paris.

“We have heard many pledges and policies aimed at mitigating climate change, but over the next five years they will mostly fail to arrest the growth in coal demand,” van der Hoeven predicted.