U.N. cli­mate change en­voy wants changes in coal in­dus­try

The Washington Times Daily - - Business - BY MONIKA SCISLOWSKA

WAR­SAW, POLAND | The U.N.’s chief cli­mate diplo­mat urged the coal in­dus­try Mon­day to di­ver­sify to­ward cleaner en­ergy sources and leave most of the world’s re­main­ing coal re­serves in the ground.

On the side­lines of a U.N. cli­mate con­fer­ence, Chris­tiana Figueres told dozens of CEOs of coal com­pa­nies meet­ing at Poland’s Econ­omy Min­istry that their in­dus­try needs to change rad­i­cally to curb emis­sions of heat-trap­ping gases that sci­en­tists say are warm­ing the planet.

“The world is ris­ing to meet the cli­mate chal­lenge as risks of in­ac­tion mount, and it is in your best in­ter­est to make coal part of the so­lu­tion,” Ms. Figueres said.

The coal event was seen as a provocation by cli­mate ac­tivists, who used a crane to reach the min­istry’s roof, where they un­furled ban­ners crit­i­ciz­ing Poland’s — and the world’s — re­liance on coal and other fos­sil fu­els.

Po­lice used another crane to take them down, as pan­elists at the coal sum­mit said that the peo­ple in the room, not the peo­ple on the roof, have the pos­si­bil­ity to change the coal in­dus­try.

The World Coal As­so­ci­a­tion, which or­ga­nized the event, said it was meant as a con­tri­bu­tion, not an al­ter­na­tive, to the U.N. cli­mate talks.

Poland gen­er­ates some 90 per­cent of its elec­tric­ity from coal and Econ­omy Min­is­ter Janusz Piechocin­ski said coal must be a part of talks on re­duc­ing CO2 emis­sions.

“You can­not have a low-emis­sions en­ergy trans­for­ma­tion with­out talk­ing about coal,” be­cause it’s the sec­ond-big­gest en­ergy source in the world, he said.

Coal ac­counts for less than 30 per­cent of the world’s en­ergy sup­ply but more than 40 per­cent of en­ergy emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency.

Ms. Figueres, who was crit­i­cized by some en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists for at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence at all, noted coal’s role in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment since the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion but said it has come at “an un­ac­cept­ably high cost to hu­man and en­vi­ron­men­tal health.”

She said ag­ing, high-pol­lut­ing coal plants must be closed and new plants should im­ple­ment tech­nolo­gies that al­low for emis­sions to be trapped be­fore they are re­leased into the at­mos­phere. But to bring down CO2 emis­sions to lev­els that would avoid dan­ger­ous lev­els of warm­ing, most of the ex­ist­ing coal re­serves must be left in the ground, she said.

“Some ma­jor oil, gas and en­ergy tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies are al­ready in­vest­ing in re­new­ables, and I urge those of you who have not yet started to join them,” she said.

While coal emis­sions have de­clined in the U.S., they are grow­ing fast in China and In­dia to meet the en­ergy needs of their fast-grow­ing economies and des­per­ately poor pop­u­la­tions.

Coal in­dus­try of­fi­cials say sig­nif­i­cant emis­sions re­duc­tions can be achieved by im­prov­ing the ef­fi­ciency of coal-fired plants. But in the long term an­a­lysts say ex­pen­sive carbon-cap­ture tech­nolo­gies need to be im­ple­mented to make the deep cuts re­quired to slow cli­mate change.


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