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Use Of Coal Increasing In Rapidly Growing Emerging Economies

While the number of new coal-fired power plants China and India are building has declined, the planned expansion in the use of coal in fast-growing emerging economies, such as Turkey, Indonesia and Vietnam, will in part cancel out the reduction, according to a new study.

The study advocates politically feasible solutions for a global coal exit. For example, coal could be pushed out of the energy markets by means of a roadmap to shut down coal mines, stricter power plant regulations and higher carbon prices worldwide.

This could be combined with using the revenues from carbon pricing for a socially just transition of tax systems or the expansion of socially necessary infrastructure.

Only if the countries of the world actively counteract the trend towards a planned expansion in the use of coal, can they achieve the climate goals agreed in the Paris Agreement. These are the results of the study ‘Reports of coal’s terminal decline may be exaggerated.’

Its authors are researchers from the Potsdam Institute on Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), published in the journalEnvironmental Research Letters.

“The coal problem is by no means self-defeating, despite all the advances in renewable energy. If the international community wants to achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals to avoid the greatest climate risks, then it must act decisively,” says PIK’s Chief Economist Ottmar Edenhofer, who is also Director of the MCC.

“It would take a coal exit, worldwide. The best way to do this is, from an economic point of view, a substantial carbon pricing. It may look different from one country to another, but a coalition of pioneers should do the first step – this very decade.”

According to the study, in 2016, China and India have each cancelled more than 50 percent of their plans to build new coal-fired power plants. However, globally coal investments are further increasing. Turkey, Indonesia and Vietnam, for example, plan to increase their capacity altogether by about 160 gigawatts. This is about as much as the output of all existing coal-fired plants in the 28 EU countries.

In addition, other countries’ planned future investments in coal have been massively extended in 2016. Investment plans in Egypt, for example, have increased almost eightfold, while they have nearly doubled in Pakistan. These developments jeopardize countries’ ability to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants would increase almost tenfold from 2012 to 2030 in Vietnam, for example, and almost quadruple in Turkey.

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