View profile

How can the world stop using coal?

How can the world stop using coal?
By Climate Solutions • Issue #4 • View online
The energy sector’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels is a death sentence for the climate. Roughly 41% of total carbon dioxide emissions come from electricity and heat production. Although coal-fired plants made up just 40% of global energy output in 2010, they were responsible for more than 70% of the sector’s emissions.
Climate action demands nothing less than a complete coal phase-out. This week’s newsletter offers a glance into our preoccupation with coal—and into the alternatives. 

Coal by country
Asia consumes three-quarters of coal globally. But the US, Australia and EU burn vast amounts of the stuff. 
China alone consumes more than half of the world’s coal. More than 4.3 million people in China work in coal mining. Despite efforts to cut coal use inside its borders to reduce hazardous air pollution, China has continued to support coal abroad, for instance partnering with Pakistan to develop new coal power plants. 
Japan has the sixth-largest CO2 emissions of nations globally. In 2016, more than half of its electricity emissions came from coal-fired plants. These plants produce 45GW of energy, and Japan plans to add another 18GW in new coal power plants—with a strategy that puts coal ahead of renewable energy. Japanese-owned coal plans are largely based abroad, with nearly 60% of them in other countries.
South Korea
Home to 60 coal-fired plants, which generate 40% of the country’s total electricity, South Korea is among the worlds largest coal importers, with its chief suppliers in Australia and Indonesia. It has seven new plants under construction for a potential of 7.27 GW of added power. 
Coal supports 60% of Australia’s electricity needs and accounts for roughly a third of its total carbon emissions. But the country’s plants are aging, with some more than 60 years old and “already technically obsolete and increasingly unreliable”, sometimes failing during heatwaves and causing blackouts. 
United States of America
As of 2021, according to US Energy Information Administration, coal power plants generated 25% of the country’s power. While down from its 35% historic high, coal-powered electricity still accounted for double the share of wind and solar, making up 19% of the energy mix in 2020.
European Union
The EU alone has 300 hundred coal-fired power plants. Top coal users include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Romania. Germany and Poland contribute 54% of EU-based coal emissions. 
What steps can the world take to end coal use?
Coal may seem like a cheap raw material, but burning it comes with massive environmental and health costs. Still, there are steps countries can take to lower their emissions and support cleaner alternatives. 
1. Promote forward-thinking policies
Divestment from fossil fuels, including coal, must become an urgent national priority. Worldwide, governments at all levels need to develop policies to improve investment certainty in alternative energies and lower the cost of infrastructure upgrades.
Take the example of Australia. While coal-powered plants are still widespread there, the country has already met its renewable energy target to add 33,000 GW of renewable energy
2. Boost affordable clean energy
Traditional energy sources have lower development costs than renewables and don’t face the same barriers to commercialization and distribution that limit their cleaner competitors. Incentives such as subsidized infrastructure development are necessary to boost green alternatives.
In India, the cost of generating electricity through solar is now lower than coal, thanks in good part to government policies. The country is expected to add 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 and 450GW by 2030. Similarly, Spanish government subsidies have helped immensely in its transition to renewable energy. 
3. Decentralization of rural energy programs: Learn from China
Decentralized energy programs can help meet energy demands in rural areas. China has had great success in distributing household-scale renewable energy systems.
By 2000, it had already put in place 150,000 small-scale wind electric generators in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia. Duplicating the project in other areas, the country provided more than 120 million improved biomass cookstoves, 1.5 million solar panels for water heating and 150,000 small wind turbines. 
4. Promote the use of hydrogen in hard-to-replace coal industries
It is difficult to replace coal in industries such as steelmaking, but not impossible. Clean energy can be used to make steel, via ‘green hydrogen’.
Burning coal also produces hydrogen, but the fuel can be produced cleanly—by breaking water down into its component atoms. In order for green hydrogen to become viable for the steel industry on a large scale though, its cost must go down. 
On the up: climate-neutral steel
Steel production contributes some eight per cent of global CO2 emissions. But some companies have committed to producing steel with green hydrogen. The EU plans to transition its steel industry to this greener fuel.
In Saudi Arabia, the US company Air Products & Chemicals plans to build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant powered by 4 GW of wind and solar projects in its $500 billion futuristic city called Neom.
In Norway, hydrogen producer Nel and the utility Statkraft have partnered on the development of a green hydrogen plant to supply green hydrogen for steel production. 
Paul’s reading list
Here are a few things I’ve been reading lately.
Paul Dawson
Sri Lanka could teach a lot of countries a lesson!

Sri Lanka will stop building coal-fired power plants and double the share of its electricity from renewables by 2030, according to the government’s latest climate plan.
Paul Dawson
Desertification is coming for Europe and North America too.

In Spain, about a fifth of all land is now at high risk of desertification, as is much of the agricultural land across Italy, Greece, and western North America.

But it's not too late to act!
Paul Dawson
We wont end the climate crisis without ending fossil fuels!

"As we allegedly lead the charge towards a cleaner, greener future, UK policy remains legally bound to drill every last economically viable drop from the North Sea." @FuelOnTheFire
I have a favor to ask if you’ve enjoyed this version of the Climate Solutions newsletter please like and share on social media. We’ll be back next time with an edition on Climate Activism.
That’s it, folks!
Stay well,
Did you enjoy this issue?
Become a member for $3 per month
Don’t miss out on the other issues by Climate Solutions
Climate Solutions

Climate change is a big problem, and there is no one single solution. However, the good news is that there are many solutions that, if combined, could solve climate change. Each edition of this newsletter will take a deep dive into each of those solutions.

Subscribe to get each edition delivered directly to your inbox on the first Tuesday of the month.

You can manage your subscription here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue