China will slash coal import tariffs to ensure energy security, the finance ministry said on April 28.

Beijing is the world’s biggest importer of coal, but import volumes dropped in the first quarter of the year and energy prices have surged globally since the conflict in Ukraine escalated.

The Chinese leadership has pledged the country will curb coal consumption after 2025. Last year half of China’s economy was fuelled by coal and imports hit a record high.

China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has also promised to peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060.

Policymakers in Beijing have long walked a tightrope balancing climate objectives with domestic growth. Now as growth slows, authorities are resorting to an old formula of propping up smokestack industries to juice the economy.

A zero tax rate will apply for all coal imports from May 1 until March 31 next year, in a move the finance ministry said would “strengthen the guarantee of energy supply and promote … development”.

China’s current coal tariffs stand at five to six per cent for different types of thermal coal used to generate electricity, and three per cent for coking coal, used to make steel.