New Australian coal mines threaten world’s chance to stay below 2°C

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Study finds pollution from new coal fired power plants could take emissions from the sector 400% higher than levels needed to stay below 2°C.

share
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Australian coal exports could fuel plans to build thousands of new coal fired power stations around the world which threaten to undermine national commitments to reduce carbon emissions made at the Paris climate summit and take global emissions beyond the 2°C limit to avoid catastrophic climate change.

An expert analysis, released today by a group of four research organisations known as Climate Action Tracker (CAT), found that emissions from new coal fired power plants could take emissions from the sector 400% higher than levels needed to stay below 2°C.

whitehaven coal

Even with no new construction, in 2030, emissions from existing coal-fired power generation would still be more than 150% higher levels needed to remain below this safety limit which requires a phase out of emissions from coal-fired power generation by 2050.
There are 2,440 planned coal plants around the world, totalling 1428 giga watts (GW), which could emit approximately 16-18 percent of total allowed global emissions in 2030, under a 2°C-compatible scenario.
The analysis, looked at the eight countries that plan to build more than 5 GW of capacity:  China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines, Turkey – as well as the EU28. Australia is the largest coal exporter in the world with major markets in China, India, Japan and South Korea.Chief Executive Officer of Climate Analytics, Bill Hare, said that in order to stay within the agreed 2 degree warming limit, a rapid decarbonisation of the energy sector was required.“More than 100 countries are calling for the Paris agreement to reference warming limits of 1.5°C.  Yet even electricity production from existing coal plants far exceed the range of such scenarios.  At the same time, we know that emerging economies like India would see so many co-benefits from reducing air pollution and other health issues its people are suffering from.”Markus Hagemann of the New Climate Institute said in the major economies of China and India there was currently a policy disconnect with plans to increase renewable energy and coal fired power.”In China and India we are seeing two opposite trends, one is a lot of support for renewable energy, in India ït is particularly solar, and a lot of plans for coal fired power stations, and the two don”t fit together. If both are built, one of them will become obsolete, and that’s usually the coal fired power plants and that’s very expensive. So clearly these countries will need look carefully at their plans for renewables and for coal and see how they match together,” Hagemann said.

Half of planned coal fired power plants had been announced but were not in the permit or construction phase so therefore would be much cheaper to cancel, the analysis found.

In seven of the nine countries studied – China, EU28, India, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Turkey – planned coal plants threaten the achievement of their national action plans to reduce carbon emissions, presented at the Paris climate summit, and which Carbon Tracker ranks as only medium or inadequate, meaning they are not sufficient to keep global warming below 2°C.

“Their combined planned new coal capacity (2,011 new coal plants, totalling 1,210GW) could put them in an even worse situation,” the CAT analysis stated.

The estimated emissions impact of planned plants that have been announced and pre-permitted – i.e. not under construction or permitted – would be 3.5 giga tonnes of carbon emissions (GtCO). Cancelling these plants could lead to emissions reductions of 2GtCO2 below current policy levels, bringing countries closer to their proposed national emissions reduction commitments.

Pieter Van Breevoort, of Ecofys, said: “There is a solution to this issue of too many coal plants on the books: cancel them.  Renewable energy and stricter pollution standards are making coal plants obsolete around the world, and the earlier a coal plant is taken out of the planning process, the less it will cost.”

Hagemann said the decreasing costs of renewable energy were likely to play a big factor in decisions on future coal plants.

“It is unlikely that all of these planned coal plants are going to be built, especially when low carbon alternatives are reaching price parity. If renewables take off as fast as is currently expected, many of these planned coal plants could be stranded investments or would have to operate under difficult financial circumstances,” Hagemann said.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) is an independent scientific analysis produced by four research organisations – Climate Analytics, the NewClimate Institute, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Ecofys – tracking climate action and global efforts towards the globally agreed aim of holding warming below 2°C.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Comment
  1. Jacob 4 years ago

    I disagree.

    The price of coal has crashed because polluted cities do not want it and so Beijing and Delhi have shut down their coal power stations.

Comments are closed.

Get up to 3 quotes from pre-vetted solar (and battery) installers.