Hopes For Climate Progress Falter With Coal Still King Across Asia

  • Date: 17/06/19
  • The Observer

A depressing picture of global power generation has coal still firmly on top. And in a vicious cycle, the very heatwaves and winter freezes high carbon emissions cause seem to be increasing them

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund is preparing to leave fossil fuels behind. Last week, Norway’s parliament confirmed by unanimous vote that its $1tn sovereign wealth fund would dump $13bn of fossil fuel investments – and start investing billions in renewables.

The move is designed to protect Norway’s state-owned investment fund from the decline in fossil fuels that will be vital if full-blown climate catastrophe is to be averted.

But fossil fuels are by no means in terminal decline, according to a recent review of the global energy industry. BP’s annual energy review revealed only days before the Norwegian vote that carbon emissions rose at the fastest rate in almost a decade last year.Advertisement

The figures revealed that the unexpected spike was caused by a growing appetite for energy, that was being met by fossil fuels. And the biggest offender in climate terms is coal.

Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, says the world’s surging demand for energy – it rose by 2.9% last year – has cemented the defiant growth of coal. Consumption had climbed for a second consecutive year following three years of decline. […]

Asia’s appetite for coal-fired electricity is keeping coal production alive too. Indian mining group Adani last week announced plans to start work on a A$2bn (£1bn) coal mine in Australia after a decade of opposition from climate campaigners.

The Queensland mine is expected to produce coal that, once burned in power plants, will emit 700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year for more than 50 years.

Wind and solar renewable power is the world’s fastest-growing energy source: it grew by 14.5% last year, led by a surge of investment in China. But the strides do not go far enough, fast enough. “You have to run very fast just to stand still,” Dale says.

The global power generation picture is “depressingly” unchanged from 20 years ago, he says. Three flat lines show an unwavering breakdown of the global electricity mix: last year coal made up 38%, non-fossil fuels reached 36% and the rest of the world’s power was generated by gas and oil. This is the same as in 1998.

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