Writing in the latest edition of the lobby group’s Cornerstone publication, its Australian CEO Benjamin Sporton warned that criticism levelled at fossil fuels had grown over recent years, particularly as the divestment campaigns gained momentum.
“In order to maximise the possibility of achieving the world’s 2C target, action must be taken immediately,” Sporton said.
“Countries such as India, Indonesia, and many more in the region will see the progress China has made over recent decades and be aware that coal-fired generation is, for them, a critical part of their path toward economic growth and development.
“It may seem simpler for the international community to wish away coal’s role in the energy mix, but that is not a realistic prospect.”
Indian Power Minister Piyush Goyal has previously described coal as playing an “essential role” in his $250 billion plan to provide “Power for All” by 2019.
The International Energy Agency forecasts coal’s share in the total Indian energy supply to rise from its current 43% to 51% by 2035.
Despite India’s posturing over renewables, Sporton believes India is showing no sign of slowing down the rate of its coal consumption, which makes it clearer still that 21st century coal technologies are “vital” to any hopes of a global climate agreement.
“It would be foolish to expect a country such as India, with the world’s second largest population, to turn its back on coal, giving up its opportunity to develop in an affordable and reliable way,” he said.
“A similar story can be told for many other emerging and developing economies in Asia.”
While the United Nation’s Conference of Parties in Paris in November is being heralded as the last chance to avoid irreversible climate change, Sporton argues the task of generating a consensus among a group of countries at very different stages of their development will be “monumental”.
“Affordable and reliable sources of energy are critical to development and this makes coal the logical choice for many developing and emerging economies,” he said.
While such countries will not support an agreement that hampers their ability to develop, advancements in technology provide a pathway to compromise – such as high-efficiency, low-emission technologies and carbon capture, use and storage.
Sporton said such technology advancements offered the potential for energy needs to be met, while also making huge reductions in global CO2 emissions.
“It is only by treating climate and development objectives as integrated priorities that we will successfully overcome these global challenges,” he said.