Climate agreement at risk without balance: WCA

WORLD leaders will not be able to reach an effective climate agreement next year unless development and climate change objectives are balanced properly with full utilisation of energy technology, the World Coal Association said.

Anthony Barich

Speaking at the conclusion of the latest round of climate negotiations in Lima last week, WCA acting CEO Benjamin Sporton said COP20 (the Conference of Parties designated as the governing body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) had demonstrated the global challenge in achieving this balance.

He said these concerns must be treated as integrated priorities, “otherwise there will not be an effective agreement at COP21 in Paris in a year’s time”.

“Any proposed agreement that hampers the ability of developing countries to grow their economies and eradicate poverty will not win their support,” he said.

“Coal’s role in development is one of the reasons why it has been the fastest growing fossil fuel for decades and why its share of global primary energy consumption has reached 30.1% – the highest level since 1970.

“With 1.3 billion people currently without electricity, the world is going to need all sources of energy available – particularly coal, which provides over 40% of global electricity.”

He said technology was the key to integrating development and climate change objectives, highlighting the contribution that can be made by high efficiency low emissions (HELE) coal and carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) technologies.

“Increasing the average efficiency of the global coal fleet from the current level of 33% to 40% – which can be done with off-the-shelf technology – would save around 2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide annually,” Sporton said.

“This is a significant contribution to global efforts – roughly equivalent to India’s total annual emissions.

“All low emission technologies are needed to meet climate targets. It’s not about picking technology winners. We cannot meet our energy needs, tackle energy poverty and reduce global emissions without utilising all low emission technology options available to us.

“A global mechanism is now needed to support developing countries so that they can use coal in a way that is consistent with climate objectives.

“It is critical that we work to raise the global average efficiency of coal-fired power plants and therefore minimise carbon dioxide emissions which would otherwise be emitted, while maintaining legitimate economic development and poverty alleviation efforts.”

Prior to the meeting in Lima, Sporton had warned that “picking technology winners” would not help meet emissions targets.

“UN climate financing and technology mechanisms, including the Green Climate Fund, should be technology neutral and support high efficiency, low emission coal – as a first step – and CCS, otherwise we are compromising our ability to meet global emissions targets. CCS will be essential to coal, as well as gas, if we are to achieve global climate objectives,” Sporton said.

“Governments at COP20 cannot ignore the contribution that can be made by all low emissions technologies, otherwise we risk setting global targets and having no ability to meet them.

“All technologies – including HELE coal and CCS – will be needed and it’s therefore essential that climate finance mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund are technology neutral.”

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