UNA couple of weeks ago, during the UN climate negotiations, Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief, gave a speech in which she stated that “coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake.”

Milton Catelin, the chief executive of the World Coal Association (WCA), explained to the Guardian that Figueres has ignored reality in giving her speech, and that her lack of expertise or experience in the mining and energy sectors mean that she lacks a basic understanding of some of the fundamentals of the energy industry.

In her speech Figueres stated that all low-efficiency, non-critical coal plants must be closed, carbon capture and storage technologies should be installed at all plants, and there must be an industry-wide agreement made to leave most coal reserves in the ground.

Catelin claimed that following such advice and shutting down low-efficiency coal plants would mean that Costa Rica, the home country of Figueres, would no longer have any access to electricity.

“She comes from a perspective where the only challenge in the world today is global warming. I think what we say is there’s more than one challenge – other things are almost as important or equally important, such as global poverty and the need to maintain economic development.

We’re not denying there are negative aspects from the burning of coal, but the figures people talk about in terms of deaths from coal burning, you have to weigh those against what are the benefits of coal burning.”

Coal offers a reliable source of cheap energy, but it is hugely polluting. Infact the IEA calculates that 43% of all CO2 emissions from global fuel combustion were produced from coal sources, and that percentage is only expected to rise.

Commenting on the proposed global emissions reduction target that may be signed in 2015, Catelin said, “we think you shouldn’t set targets until you know how you’re going to get there, otherwise they’re just meaningless pieces of rhetoric.

We think they should sit down and talk to major sectors involved in greenhouse gas emissions and talk to them about how to get there. You can set any target you want, but what’s the point of setting a target that gives you a warm inner glow but doesn’t achieve what you want to achieve?”

 

[Joao Peixe, Oil Price]

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