The Clean Coal Myth

4897768842_844606f35e_zClean coal is not Cool!

Japan is the worst offender for financing coal plants abroad – it has spent over US$20 billion on this since 2007 doing just this and it is currently considering spending billions more.

Japan, though, says that coal is cheap and people need electricity, and they are going to get it somehow. So, goes the premise, if Japan won’t finance coal plants, someone else will.

But that’s a poor excuse. For one, Japan’s technology is no longer more efficient than what is being built elsewhere in the world, according to Ted Nace, the founder of CoalSwarm. (China has long been portrayed as ready to swoop in with cheaper, less-efficient power plants, if Japan backs off the international scene).

“What’s being built in China is as efficient as anything else in the world,” Nace told ThinkProgress:

“[The Japanese] sort of bought into this idea that their coal plants are so efficient,” Nace said. “But you can’t build efficient coal plants and solve the climate problem.”

The reality is that ‘clean’ coal is never clean.

Recent research by consultancy Ecofys shows that in order to achieve the emissions reductions needed to keep temperature rise under 2 degrees – an international commitment confirmed in Paris in December – power production from coal needs to reduce drastically as from today. Even if all planned coal plants were fitted with the most ‘efficient’ technology the 2 degree goal would still not be within reach.

An even more rapid decline will be needed in order to achieve the commitment taken at the UN climate summit in Paris in December 2015 to ‘pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’.

The G7 summit offers an opportunity to do so. So far, the US, the UK and France have already pledged to restrict coal finance. All G7 countries should commit to putting their money where their mouth is, and immediately end all public financial support for any type of coal plant technology, whatever its efficiency.

The UK is also showing leadership be pledging to phase out coal by 2025. In the US, New York State will phase out by 2020 and Alberta province in Canada will end coal use by 2030. All G7 countries should publicly commit to phase out coal plants in their country by 2030 at the latest, as a precursor to the global phase-out.

Image credit: Babbltrish on Flickr