Coal undermines climate and development goals, say aid bodies

25 Oct 16

The coal industry has made false claims about the fuel’s role in combating poverty, three international aid bodies have said.

In a report , the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod) and Christian Aid said increasing the number of coal power plants around the world would neither deliver universal energy access nor eradicate extreme poverty.

The report said coal had claimed too much credit for progress towards these goals, and cleaner and cheaper energy options could give better results.

While the coal industry maintained that expanding the fuel’s use was critical to fighting extreme poverty and improving energy access in developing countries, “the opposite is true”, the three organisations said.

Building just one third of planned coal-fired power plants would take the world past the 2 degrees centigrade level of warming, which would itself push “hundreds of millions into extreme poverty”, the report said.

The sharp decline in solar and wind power costs meant scaled-up distributed renewable energy would be the cheapest and quickest way of reaching households that lack reliable electricity.

Co-author Ilmi Granoff said: ‘There’s no question that rich economies must rapidly replace coal with low-carbon energy to avoid a climate crisis.

“The coal industry continues to spread false claims that coal is critical to fighting extreme poverty and improving energy access in poorer countries. This paper, from organisations on the front line of the fight against poverty, shows that coal undermines both climate and development goals, while clean energy supports them.”

The report urged governments to phase out support for coal capacity expansion, and instead encourage access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy, and on the G20 governments to stop fossil fuel subsidies.

Responding to the report, World Coal Association chief executive Benjamin Sporton said: “We cannot wish coal out of the energy mix, especially in developing countries, that’s why we need to better support countries develop and use high efficiency, low emissions technologies.

“Renewables provide small-scale and quick-to-build energy access solutions, particularly in remote areas, but significantly more energy generation is needed to power up business and industry and support energy access in an era of growing urbanisation.”

Sporton added that an industrial strategy based on coal had seen some 600 million people lifted out of poverty in China in the past 20 years and that coal would have “a critical role to play in [India’s] electrification alongside renewables”.

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