That’s the percentage of global energy consumption that is provided by coal, according to BP’s just-released statistical energy review (PDF) for 2012. That’s the biggest share coal—the largest single contributor to air pollution and carbon emissions—has had globally since 1969. Last year coal consumption grew by 5.4%, making it the only fossil fuel to record above-average growth. (For comparison’s sake, non-hydro renewable sources like wind and solar accounted for just 2.1% of global energy consumption last year, though it grew by an above-average 17.7%.) All together global primary energy consumption grew by 2.5% last year, with much of that growth coming from developing nations.
The fact that coal globally is doing better than it has in decades is likely to come as a surprise to many in the U.S., whether a supposed “war on coal” is being waged by environmentalists and the Obama Administration and where natural gas from shale deposits has been supplanting coal for many utilities. Indeed, coal’s share of U.S. electricity fell to 34% in March, the lowest level since at least January 1973. (In March natural gas provided 30% of U.S. electricity.) But coal’s loss in the U.S. is being more than made up in developing nations like China, where coal consumption grew by nearly 10% last year.
The Rio+20 Earth Summit is set to begin soon, and once again we’ll see the now familiar standoff between developed and developing nations over just who is responsible for climate change the world’s other assorted environmental ills. President Barack Obama won’t be there, and he’ll likely be blamed for doing too little on his watch to fight global warming. But the cold hard numbers of BP’s energy review reveals the fact—fairly or not—that it is developing nations who need to curb coal and carbon. And there’s little evidence that they have the will or the ability yet.