Rich countries must lead the effort to phase out coal and declare an end to public finance for even the most “efficient” combustion technologies, the World Wildlife Fund argued in a blog post this week, less than a day after the world’s largest coal company, Peabody Energy, filed for bankruptcy in the United States.
To keep average global warming below the internationally-agreed target of 2°C, “power production from coal needs to reduce drastically as from today, and be completely phased out by the middle of this century,” writes Sustainable Finance Policy Officer Jan Vandermosten. “An even more rapid decline will be needed in order to achieve the commitment taken at the UN climate summit in Paris in December 2015 to ‘pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.’”
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Yet coal plant development continues around the world, with more than 2,300 new facilities under construction. “CO2 emissions from existing and new plants in 2030 would amount to 11 gigatonnes: this is six times higher than what a 1.5°C carbon budget would allow,” Vandermosten writes. Even the most efficient CO2 control technologies would only reduce that by about a gigatonne, “keeping the 1.5°C target far out of reach.”
To put serious action behind their official signatures on the Paris Agreement next week, governments “should recognize what research demonstrates: that the global carbon budget and the time remaining to reduce greenhouse gas emissions simply do not allow for the replacement of retired coal plants with new, more efficient coal plants, let alone capacity extensions,” Vandermosten concludes. He called on G7 countries to phase out coal generation by 2035 and “immediately end all public financial support for any type of coal plant technology.”
On EcoWatch, meanwhile, author Jeff Biggers writes that Peabody and other failing coal giants should be in U.S. criminal court, not bankruptcy court, since Chapter 11 “will likely allow it to walk away from massive reclamation and mine worker commitments.” Aid programs put forward by the Obama administration fail “to take into account the huge reckoning coal-mined communities have paid with their health, lives, and livelihoods,” he adds.
Coal country doesn’t need “more flawed social programs that feed a failed system,” Biggers stresses. “They need to be on the front line of regeneration and revival, a showcase for new economies in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and tech industries, local food and agriculture, underwritten by decades of sacrifice.”
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