From: reprint from UNEP Climate Change Conference
Published November 19, 2013 12:43 PM

Plug up the COAL; keep it in the ground!

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary UNFCCC, Speaks to the World Coal Association in Warsaw: invest in renewables and leave most of your coal underground. The path forward begins in the past, recognizing that coal played a key role in the history of our economic development. From heating to transportation to the provision of electricity, coal has undoubtedly enabled much of our progress over the last 200 years. 

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Coal was at the heart of the developed world's Industrial Revolution and brought affordable energy to parts of the developing world. However, while society has benefitted from coal-fuelled development, we now know there is an unacceptably high cost to human and environmental health. 

The science is clear. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report outlines our predicament. We are at unprecedented GHG concentrations in the atmosphere; our carbon budget is half spent. If we continue to meet energy needs as we have in the past, we will overshoot the internationally agreed goal to limit warming to less than two degree Celsius. 

AR5 is not science fiction; it is science fact. 

AR5 is the overwhelming consensus of 200 lead authors synthesizing the work of 600 scientists who analysed 9000 peer-reviewed publications. AR5 is arguably the most rigorous scientific report ever written. The findings of the AR5 have been endorsed by 195 governments, including all of those in which you operate. 

The science is a clarion call for the rapid transformation of the coal industry. We need to radically rethink coal’s place in our energy mix. 

Development banks have stopped funding unabated coal. Commercial financial institutions are analysing the implications of unburnable carbon for their investment strategies. Pricing of GHG emissions is on the rise, evidenced by trading markets coming online around the globe. And, international policy is moving us toward a global low-emission economy. 

All of this tells me that the coal industry faces a business continuation risk that you can no longer afford to ignore. 

Like any other industry, you have a fiduciary responsibility to your workforce and your shareholders. Like any other industry, you are subject to the major political, economic and social shifts of our time. And by now it should be abundantly clear that further capital expenditures on coal can go ahead only if they are compatible with the two degree Celsius limit. 

The coal industry has the opportunity to be part of the worldwide climate solution by responding proactively to the current paradigm shift. 

Read the entire speech at UNEP

COAL image, gloved finger image and ground image via Shutterstock. Morphed by Robin Blackstone.

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