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Don't forget coal in clean pledges: WCA

EMISSIONS reduction pledges by a range of countries in the lead-up to the UN's COP21 (Conference of Parties) climate negotiations in Paris in November merely demonstrate the need for more investment in low emission coal technology, not less, World Coal Association CEO Benjamin Sporton said.

Anthony Barich

Australia has pledged to reduce emissions by 5% below 2000 base level emissions by 2020 under the Copenhagen pledge. However, Climate Action Tracker ranks Australia’s pledges thus far as “inadequate”, along with Canada, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Ukraine.

Carbon Tracker said that up until last year when the Australian government repealed core elements of Clean Energy Future Plan, the implemented climate policy was “effective” and was projected to have been “sufficient” to meet Australia’s unconditional Copenhagen pledge for a 5% reduction from 2000 levels by 2020.

“Our post-repeal assessment shows, however, that this target is no longer in reach and the currently proposed new legislation will result in emissions increasing by 12-18% above 2000 emissions levels, rather than the 5% reduction pledged,” Carbon Tracker said.

Under its most recent analysis last updated in March, Carbon Tracker ranked Bhutan as the “role models”, with the measures of Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Morocco deemed “sufficient”

Meanwhile, the efforts of Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Switzerland and the US were rated as “medium”

With many more countries will be making their pledges in the coming months, Sporton said that “clearly many countries are making ambitious commitments in the lead up to Paris, but without significant investment in low emission coal technologies those commitments are going to be very difficult to achieve”

“Coal is forecast to play a significant role in the world’s energy mix for decades to come and so investment in low emission coal technologies, such as high efficiency low emissions power generation and carbon capture and storage, is critical to achieving global climate objectives,” Sporton said.

The International Energy Agency’s New Policies Scenario forecasts that coal’s share of the world energy mix will only drop from 29% today to 24% in 2040 as world energy demand increases by 40%.

The same IEA data also shows coal-fired power generation is forecast to grow 33% over the same period – even with ambitious targets for deployment of renewable energy.

Sporton said demand for coal was primarily driven by Asia where countries are using it to provide affordable, reliable electricity to power their economies.

To this end, IEA data shows the demand for coal in southeast Asia is expected to grow 4.8% year-on-year through to 2035. Electricity from coal in India is expected to more than double by 2040 and will continue to grow in China.

“Some commentators point to the recent easing in coal demand to argue that China is moving away from coal when in fact most respected analysis from the IEA and others shows that coal will still provide the majority of China’s electricity for decades to come,” Sporton said.

“What many commentators also choose to ignore is that to bring electricity to the 300 million people who don’t have it in India will require a huge growth in energy from all sources, including coal.

“Peaking and then reducing emissions requires action now to ensure the most advanced coal technologies are built. Modern high efficiency coal plants produce 35% less carbon dioxide than older technology and are a key first step on the pathway to carbon capture and storage.”

Sporton said countries Intended Nationally Determined Contributions should include calls for support for low emission coal technologies.

“The Paris outcome should support a mechanism to make sure those countries who are going to use coal are supported to use it in the cleanest way possible, this includes support through the Green Climate Fund and equal treatment for carbon capture and storage alongside other low emission technologies,” he said.

The WCA recently launched a concept for an international Platform to Accelerate Coal Efficiency (PACE), which would support developing and emerging economies move away from low efficiency coal-fired power generation toward modern high efficiency low emission plants.

“Despite what some people might wish, coal isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so if we are to achieve global climate ambitions and have a meaningful deal in Paris it must support more investment in low emission coal,” Sporton said.

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