Marrakech climate talks: Why we’re at the table

14th Nov 2016

It’s a year since the Paris Agreement was reached, and appetite for affordable, reliable and accessible energy in developing and emerging economies, particularly in Asia continues to grow. For many such economies, coal continues to be critical to their development.

According to the International Energy Agency’s 2015 report , coal will continue to be an essential part of the world’s energy mix. It will make up 10% of the increased energy demand by 2040, largely due to demand in India and Southeast Asia.

Coal provides 41% of the world’s electricity and is an essential raw material in the production of 70% of the world’s steel and 90% of the world’s cement. Without access to affordable, reliable, grid-based electricity, which coal provides, it is impossible for economies to grow and develop.

There is an assumption that we can get rid of coal, and only by getting rid of it can we meet climate objectives. This is false.  Coal plays a critical role in the world’s energy mix and is going to do so for a very long time to come.

We all have one goal - to reduce emissions and the World Coal Association (WCA) has long recognised this objective. Coal is not the problem, emissions are. In order to reduce emissions and get us on the pathway to achieving the Paris Agreement’s well below 2 degree target, high efficiency low emissions (HELE) and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies must be encouraged.

The lead-up to COP21 saw countries submit their own climate contributions - the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) where countries laid out their plans in reducing emissions. These NDCs are the foundation of the Paris Agreement. Low emission coal technology features significantly in the plans of about 19 countries which together produce 44% of the world’s emissions. 

Research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown that action on climate change without CCS would be 138% more expensive. With the Paris Agreement flagging even greater ambition, CCS technology will be even more critical.

This year, the WCA is attending COPP22 to call for policy parity for CCS and to support countries which have included low emission coal technology in their national climate plans. We need to ensure older, less efficient power stations are replaced with modern, more efficient ones, and to encourage countries to plan for the adoption of CCS.

We need all energy sources to meet global energy needs, and we need all low emissions technologies to reduce emissions. That means that HELE and CCS technologies must be recognised as essential mitigation technologies.

Even in a world where renewables play a larger role in the energy mix, coal still has an important role to play.

In Marrakech, the “rule book” that will be established for the Paris Agreement implementation must support countries to deliver all aspects of their NDCs, including elements on low emissions coal.

Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth