Wednesday, December 1, 2021

More than 40 countries pledge to end coal energy at UN Climate Summit

GLASGOW, Scotland – More than 40 countries have pledged to ditch coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, in a deal announced Thursday at the United Nations Climate Summit that prompted Alok Sharma, the conference leader, to say “coal has run out. understanding.”

But some of the largest coal consumers were conspicuously absent from the deal, including China and India, which together burn about two-thirds of the world’s coal, as well as Australia, the world’s 11th largest coal consumer and largest exporter.

The United States, which still generates about one-fifth of its electricity from coal, has not signed the pledge either.

The new pact includes 23 countries that, for the first time, have pledged to stop building and issue permits for new coal-fired power plants at home and ultimately stop using fuel. Among them are five of the 20 largest energy generating countries in the world: Poland, Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam and Ukraine.

The US decision to abstain appears to have been dictated by American policy.

Read more about the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow

President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda is split into two major pieces of legislation pending on Capitol Hill, which are dependent on the support of Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va. The state of Manchin is rich in coal and gas, has financial ties to the coal industry, and is adamantly opposed to any policy that could harm fossil fuels.

Two administration officials in Glasgow said negotiations with the British government over a pledge to end the use of coal dragged on until Wednesday evening, with the United States pushing for an exemption for coal-fired power plants that have the technology to capture and store carbon dioxide. (To date, only one such plant has been built in the United States, and it ceased operations this year.)

Ultimately, although US officials decided signing the oath could anger Manchin, officials said they spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the negotiations. A spokeswoman for Manchin did not respond to a request for comment.

The use of coal-fired power in the United States peaked in 2007 and is rapidly declining, being replaced by cheaper natural gas, wind and solar power.

Coal is the largest source of global warming carbon dioxide emissions, and ending its use is a major concern at the Glasgow summit.

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said the coal ditch is “necessary” to prevent the global average temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. This is the threshold beyond which, according to many scientists, the planet will experience the catastrophic effects of heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods. The planet has already warmed up by about 1.1 degrees Celsius.

To achieve this 1.5-degree Celsius target, rich countries will have to replace virtually all coal, oil and gas power plants with wind, solar or nuclear by 2035, according to the International Energy Agency. The agency said that by 2040, all of the world’s remaining coal-fired power plants should be closed or equipped with technology to capture carbon emissions and bury them underground.

“In the near future, we will leave behind all fossil fuels and live in a new world of sustainable energy based on renewable energy sources,” said Schulze.

Some environmental groups warned that the agreement was vague on key details, such as when exactly countries will stop using fuel. The statement only says that major countries are pledging to phase out coal power “in the 2030s (or as soon as possible after that),” while the rest of the world will gradually phase out coal by about the 2040s.

This is a loophole, ”said Jennifer Morgan, CEO of Greenpeace International. “This is another nail in the coal coffin, but only one, and the coffin is not yet sealed,” added Morgan.

Highlighting the vague promise, Poland’s Climate and Environment Minister Anna Moskva tweeted Thursday that the deal allowed Poland to ditch coal by 2049. Poland currently obtains 70% of its electricity from coal and has often resisted European proposals to phase out coal. switch from fossil fuels faster.

On Thursday, the Biden administration signed on to an agreement to end funding for “fixed” oil, gas and coal supplies to other countries by the end of next year. The term “unabated” refers to power plants that burn fossil fuels and release pollution directly into the air without any attempt to capture emissions.

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The agreement is expected to go a long way towards diverting government funding away from multilateral development funders such as the World Bank away from fossil fuels. The 25 countries and organizations participating in the pact, including Italy, Canada and Denmark, have pledged to prioritize support for low-carbon and zero-carbon energy such as wind, solar and geothermal.

The decision to stop funding overseas fossil fuels, coupled with investments in clean energy, is “really important,” said Rachel Kite of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

“If we simply said no to brown energy, then political tensions between developing and developed countries would simply escalate,” she said.

Republicans in the United States criticized the Biden administration’s pledge to cut off funding for oil, gas and coal, noting that China, Japan, and South Korea, some of the world’s largest sponsors of foreign oil and gas projects, were absent from the agreements.

“This agreement opens up the opportunity for China and Russia to finance the same production, but with their non-existent environmental standards,” Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana tweeted. “Patting yourself on the back and pretending to change something does nothing if it only leads to higher global emissions.”

Others noted that the move could easily be reversed by a future administration.

“If there is no law that would secure the new administration, I don’t know how the US will be obliged to comply with it,” said George David Banks, who was an adviser to President Donald Trump on international energy issues.

The pledge to end the use of coal comes with a resurgence in coal consumption worldwide after years of steady decline. Global coal consumption is expected to rise 5.7% this year as the global economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and is now just below the peak set in 2014, according to new data released Thursday by the Global Carbon Project. The Chinese government recently ordered coal companies to increase production to cope with power shortages that have led to massive power outages across the country.

The World Coal Association did not respond to a request for comment on the new announcement, but earlier this week it said efforts to phase out coal ignored the fact that coal “remains critical to energy supplies in 80 countries and the livelihoods of over 790 million human. people who do not have access to reliable and affordable electricity. “

Several of these countries have signed the commitment. Ukraine, the third largest consumer of coal in Europe, said Wednesday that it intends to stop using coal by 2035. Chile, which had previously promised to close all of its remaining coal-fired power plants by 2040, said it would speed up its deadlines.

The commitment will require major changes from some countries. Vietnam, for example, will have to substantially revise its recent plans to double its coal capacity by 2030.

Developing countries are likely to need external financial assistance to move away from coal, which has long been considered a cheap source of energy for factories and homes. Indonesia, which signed the pledge, previously said it could phase out coal-fired power plants by 2040, but only if it receives financial assistance. The country ranks eighth in the world in terms of emissions and gets about two-thirds of its electricity from coal.

At the Glasgow summit, financiers and development banks have pledged roughly $ 20 billion so far to help developing countries move away from coal, including $ 8.5 billion from the United States and several European governments to help coal-dependent South Africa transition to cleaner energy. The Asian Development Bank has also set up a new fund that will buy coal-fired power plants in Asia to close earlier, although some critics question how effective the plan will be.

One question that went unanswered in the coal promise is whether countries can instead turn to natural gas to meet their energy needs. When burned for fuel, gas produces about half of the carbon dioxide than coal, but is still the main source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Nation World News Desk
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