Targeted action needed to curb unrelenting global demand for coal power – German env min
Clean Energy Wire
The world's consumption of coal as a power source will grow further until at least 2040 if no targeted action is taken to dissuade developing countries from commissioning new coal plants, and to ensure that regions depending on the coal sector have alternative economic prospects. "It's key that countries which so far are not using coal power do not start using this technology now," Germany's environment minister Svenja Schulze said at the UN climate summit COP25 in Madrid. Coal-fired power production and industry's use of the fossil energy source account for roughly 30 percent of the world's energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, the German environment ministry (BMU) stated, adding that while investments in coal decreased in recent years, about 170 gigawatts (GW) of capacity are currently under construction. According to the ministry, coal consumption is set to rise significantly in India and throughout Southeast Asia, compensating the decrease occurring in China, Europe and the US. "Demand for coal will not sink without further measures," the BMU said.
Exiting coal is expected to be particularly difficult in countries where the coal industry provides a livelihood to entire regions and creates "social dependence" on hard coal or lignite mining. The BMU stated that achieving a "just transition" that combines emissions reduction with economic stability will be a major challenge, given that for example in China alone, over 3 million people are still working in the industry. The ministry has launched a support programme for developing countries aimed at enabling them to find alternatives to fossil energy sources and to overcome the challenge of high initial costs for renewable energy sources, even though these have become cheaper to operate than fossil power sources in the long run. Minister Schulze added that the EU's new climate ambitions hinged on targeted action to avoid economic disruption in mining regions. "I believe we can only reach an agreement on the new EU climate targets if we support the regions most affected by the transformation," she said.
Coal still is a major power source for Germany but the country is set to end coal-fired power production by 2038 at the latest and power production with renewables is likely to overtake fossil power production over the course of a whole year for the first time in 2019. However, Germany's coal exit has been seen as an example that is difficult to emulate especially for less wealthy countries, given that the government agreed to support affected regions with over 40 billion euros in economic aid over the next decades.