It’s time for the world to stop building coal plants, once and for all

22 Sep, 2023 - 00:09 0 Views
It’s time for the world to stop building coal plants, once and for all

eBusiness Weekly

As the United Nations marks Climate Week in New York, heading into a global climate summit later this year, it’s time to train the spotlight on one critical, stubborn issue: the growth of unabated coal.

The world has seen recent progress on climate change, including momentum for tripling the deployment of renewable energy sources, thanks to Indian leadership at the recent Group of 20 summit.

But the proliferation of unabated coal — coal used to produce energy without steps to eliminate emissions — threatens to negate any such advances.

Tripling renewables without also halting the building of new, dirty coal plants would be like training for a marathon while smoking five packs of cigarettes a day.

Even if not a single new coal plant were built anywhere in the future, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that the emissions from the world’s existing coal fleet, if left unchecked, would be the death blow to the Paris climate agreement goal of limiting global warming to the critical threshold of 1,5 degrees Celsius in this century.

The first step is to stop making the problem worse: Stop building new unabated coal power plants. With cheaper and cleaner alternatives, the marketplace stopped building new coal-fired plants in the United States and Britain more than a decade ago, and most countries have followed suit.

The entire continent of Africa — more than a billion people across 54 countries — represents just a tiny fraction of the global pipeline of new coal power plants.

But a handful of countries are still building or planning a staggering 500 gigawatts of additional coal power in the 2020s — almost 80 percent of it in China and other Asia Pacific nations. And current forecasts predict that these build-outs will last for a long time, releasing destructive levels of emissions.

We know that all countries have better, cleaner options that won’t choke human lungs, pollute lakes and streams, belch out dirty air and wreak climate havoc.

There are real, viable, economic alternatives to coal — most notably wind and solar, but also other clean-energy technologies such as geothermal and nuclear energy.

The United States is partnering with India — which is deploying solar and wind at a spectacular pace — on new ways of driving progress on renewables and energy storage investments.

Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates announced a new US$4,5 billion initiative to support renewables across Africa.

Nigeria has made a brave decision to eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies, positioning the country to unleash a clean-energy boom that could increase solar capacity by a factor of 20 by 2030.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, already has the capabilities and technology to quickly turn the corner on coal, and there are many willing partners in the international community ready to make that desperately needed change.

Much greater efforts are needed to speed the transition to clean energy worldwide. Ultimately, this requires moving as quickly as possible to 100 percent clean power while electrifying many more parts of our economies — from cars, buses and trucks to how we heat our homes and fuel our industries.

It demands action to double the rate of progress on energy efficiency and reducing unmitigated global fossil fuel use. All of this is achievable and significant efforts are underway.

At the COP28 climate summit in Dubai later this year, the world will be undertaking the first “global stocktake” — a report card measuring progress against the Paris agreement’s temperature goal. World leaders have a chance at COP28 to be bold — to bring about a key political tipping point — and to put our planet on a path toward a cleaner and safer energy future.

All the optimism around a growing push to triple the world’s capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources in this decade is deserved.

It is a welcome start, which the IEA has called for and the United States wholeheartedly supports. But if this achievement alone is the grand achievement of COP28, it will represent a climate tombstone, not a clean-energy capstone.

What the world needs is to triple clean energy plus, not minus. We can no longer afford to be silent about the literal canary in the coal mine. — The Washington Post

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