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Forget Green Hype: Europe To Subsidise Exports Of Coal-Fired Power Plants

Barbara Lewis, Reuters

European makers of coal-fired power plants should get financial help to export the equipment, an EU policy paper seen by Reuters says, flying in the face of environmental opposition to any form of subsidy for coal.

Coal is the most polluting fossil fuel, emitting around twice as much carbon dioxide as gas when used to generate power.

As a result, the European Union is phasing out subsidies for domestic coal plants by 2018 in line with its efforts to take a global lead in the fight against climate change.

But a paper prepared by officials from the European Commission trade department says export credits, or preferential loans to help cover exports costs, should be continued for the most modern coal plant technology.

“It has to be recognised that at a global level, coal as an important source of energy production is not going to disappear immediately,” says the paper circulated among representatives of EU member states.

“The EU delegation would consider it logical to try to see how the OECD export credit community can create incentives to ensure that this continued use of coal as an energy source is at least done in the most climate-friendly way possible,” it said, referring to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Commission, the EU executive, does not comment on unpublished documents.

An EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the policy paper was informal, but had received positive reactions from “most member states”.

The diplomat added the OECD export credit group would debate the issue later this month. The Paris-based OECD was not immediately available for comment.

The size of the credits are not huge, but environmental campaigners say any financing for coal should stop.

In an April briefing paper on coal finance, the World Wildlife Fund conservation group said countries around the world provided $7 billion over the period 2007-2013 for developing coal overseas.

Of this, export credit preferential loans accounted for some $5 billion, with Germany, followed by France, being the biggest providers in Europe.

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