Coal: A New Climate Solution?
19 October 2015
Burning coal is many things: it’s dirty, carbon intensive, expensive and, a massive threat to public health. It’s also not a solution to the climate crisis. This should be evident to anyone familiar with the warnings from the IPCC and IEA. The construction of coal plants will soon lock in emissions that will exceed 2°C warming. Approximately 80% of the world’s coal reserves cannot be burned if we are to stay below this threshold.
Many of this understand this, although, apparently this is not evident to Japan.
Japan has relentlessly argued that burning unlimited amounts of coal in slightly more efficient plant is a core solution to climate change. To advance its fairy-tale vision of a coal-fired, climate-safe world, Japan has systematically obstructed common sense proposals to limit global coal subsidies. Japan has opposed language in the finance text that would call on countries to limit international support for high carbon investments. It has funded coal plants and claimed it as part of its climate finance contributions, rejecting the consensus of other major contributors that this is inappropriate. And perhaps worst of all, it has blocked any compromise agreement at the OECD level that would limit public subsidies for the export of coal technologies.
To see just how regressive Japan’s intransigent support of its coal industry really is, compare their position to that of China, which recently committed to take steps to strictly control its public support for coal plants, both at home and abroad. Better yet, compare it to that of Kiribati. Faced with the existential crisis of warming-induced sea level rise, Kiribati has called for a global moratorium on new coal mines to facilitate the transition away from burning coal.
It’s hard to see how Japan subsidising coal plants will help Kiribati. It’s not hard to see how it will help its own industry.