September 25, 2014

As China and the US move away from coal could global emissions really peak?

“For the past decade, the two biggest reasons for despair for those who favour strong action to stop climate change, and the top two excuses for those who don’t, have been the rapid increase in coal-burning in China and inaction in the US. But in the past few years, to the surprise of many, both these countries have taken major steps away from coal. Their move opens up a crucial window of opportunity to achieve what many thought was a lost cause – a peak in global emissions of heat-trapping gases well before 2020,” writes Lauri Myllyvirta of Greenpeace International.

Suggested Tweet: As #China and the US move away from #coal could global emissions really peak? writes @laurimyllyvirta @Energydesk #climate

Serbia’s cross-border coal pollution under scrutiny by UN body

“When it comes to coal, Serbia really doesn’t do things by halves. One of the coal-fired power plants that Serbia plans to build, Kostolac B3, is the first coal power plant to be under consideration by the United Nation’s Espoo Convention Implementation Committee for potentially breaching the Convention’s transboundary environmental impact assessment obligations. According to these a country is obliged to properly inform and consult neighbouring countries about transboundary environmental risks of projects it is promoting. So far, no coal power plants have ever been subject to consideration by the Committee,” writes Ioana Ciuta, Bankwatch energy campaign coordinator.

Suggested Tweet: #Serbia’s cross-border #coal pollution under scrutiny by UN body #Kostolac B3 @unaltuser

Peabody Coal 'Campaign' Hopefully Won't Fool Congress

“As the world turns away from the dirty and destructive impacts of coal, and towards cleaner and safer non-fossil alternatives, it is little wonder that Peabody created a front organization to promote coal as ‘advanced’ and coal pollution as good ‘for life.’ Congress should reject Peabody's cynical public relations ploys and shadowy legislative tactics, and prevent OPIC's and Ex-Im Bank's corporate welfare for environmentally and developmentally harmful projects,” writes Doug Norlen from Friends of the Earth in Huffington Post.

Suggested Tweet: #Peabody Energy 's Coal 'Campaign' Hopefully Won't Fool Congress @dougnorlen


After climate rallies, the coal industry’s isolation grows


In what became the largest global climate day of protest, at least 600,000 people participated in 2800 events in 160 countries last weekend. The 400,000-strong rally in New York City included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ahead of the UN climate summit in New York, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced it was divesting from fossil fuels and joining a US$50 billion coalition investing in clean energy. The growing isolation of the coal industry was encapsulated in comments by the Executive Director of the UN's Environment Programme, Achim Steiner,  who – referring to countries which have oil, coal and asbestos – said that “at a certain point human wellbeing and our collective wellbeing and security becomes an overriding criterion.” (BBC, photo gallery)

top news

Indian Supreme Court cancels 214 coal blocks: The Supreme Court of India has ruled that 214 coal blocks allocated since 1993 should be cancelled, including the controversial Mahan coal block. Four coal blocks under review were ruled legal, including two allocated to Reliance Power for the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project. The decision has been welcomed by Greenpeace India as an opportunity for the Modi government to move away from “corrupt, expensive, dirty energy.” (Hindustan Times, Times of India)

Australian state strips citizens of objection rights: In a last-minute amendment to Queensland’s mining law, the state government has stripped citizens of the right to object to new mining leases unless they own land within the lease area or are immediate neighbours. University of Queensland Lecturer, Chris McGrath, believes few people will be able to challenge new mines even if they have widespread impacts on regional groundwater. (The Conversation, ABC)

Protest stops coal train near UK coal power station: Fifty Greenpeace protesters blocked a train carrying 1500 tonnes of coal for the 2000 megawatt (MW) Cottam power station. The plant, which is owned by the French energy utility EDF, is among the top 20 most polluting power stations in Europe and slated to be closed in 2023. (Greenpeace, EDF)
Legal appeal over Canadian export terminal approval: Residents and environmental groups have lodged an appeal against the approval of the Surrey Docks coal export terminal in Vancouver. The groups argue that Port Metro Vancouver was biased and failed to consider impact on the climate of burning the coal in its destination markets. (The Now, Ecojustice)

Coal industry courts US faith groups: In a bid to counter growing support for the fossil fuel divestment campaign, major coal companies are courting US faith-based groups. Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani said that his and other coal companies were seeking to “explain the industry fundamentals” to faith-based groups because “they've got such an extensive reach across the globe.” (Sydney Morning Herald)

China announces plant closures, efficiency upgrades: Three key government agencies have stated that 10,000 MW of “obsolete” power stations will be closed and 500,000 MW of plants “cleaned up” by 2020. It was also announced that existing power plants should reduce coal consumption from the current average of 317 grams per kilowatt hour (kwh) to below 310 grams per kwh by 2020. The target for new plants is to be below 300 grams per kwh. (Xinhua)

“Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral system, we can say that nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of fossil fuels,”

wrote Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu in The Observer.


Australia: BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance to cut 700 jobs from Queensland met coal mines.

Bangladesh: Planning Commission delays decision on Rampal plant pending further information.

India: Coal India investigating 1000 MW of solar projects as offset to its “massive” pollution.
Pakistan: Punjab signs agreement with CMEC for development of Salt Range mine for power.

US: Ship loaded with 62,000 tonnes of coal runs aground in Duluth Harbour, Minnesota.

Zimbabwe: Government signs MOU with Shanghai Electric for 1200 MW plant.

“While the overall cost of doing so [cutting greenhouse gas emissions] may be low, the impact on particular sectors, such as coal, will still be significant. The greatest obstacle to sensible climate policies is the lobbying power of established interests, which resist change by conflating their own prosperity with that of the economy as a whole,”

stated an editorial in the Financial Times, the leading British business newspaper.

companies + markets

Anglo American gloomy over short-term future of met coal prices: Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani believes that approximately 50 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of metallurgical coal production will need to be stopped to restore profitability to the industry. Cutifani said he expects one or two announcements of further closures every few weeks. Anglo American recently announced the closure of the 2.5 Mtpa Peace River mine in Canada. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Vietnam’s coal and power companies benefit from banks’ rule-bending: The government-owned coal mining company,Vietnam Coal and Mining Group, is one of the beneficiaries of banks being granted a waiver from rules limiting loans to no more than 15 per cent of their assets.  An audit by the central bank found that “too much” money had been loaned to state-owned companies and often at less than half commercial interest rates. (Thanh Nien News)
Russian coal miner slides towards bankruptcy: Russia’s Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has stated that he sees “no other way out” other than bankruptcy for the country’s largest metallurgical coal producer, OAO Mechel. In the wake of the minister’s comments, the company’s shares - which are traded on the New York Stock Exchange - fell by more than 30 per cent. (Businessweek)

Peak Chinese steel production overhangs met coal demand: The deputy secretary-general of the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA), Li  Xinchuang, told an iron ore industry conference that Chinese steel production growth is slowing and likely to peak at 900 million tonnes per annum, lower than coal and iron ore company estimates. Slower demand growth and increased reliance on recycling scrap steel will dampen demand and prices for iron ore and metallurgical coal. US Steel, the largest steel producer in the US, is contemplating a shift towards lower cost – and less coal-intensive – mini-mills which rely on scrap steel. (Sydney Morning Herald, Wall Street Journal)

“For Australians, this all adds up to a coming decade that will look and feel completely different to the one that has just been. And the impact will be more brutal on the coal industry than other sectors … Industry executives and politicians who obfuscate the realities of climate change should not do further damage to shareholders and voters by ignoring warnings that portend the end of China's coal boom,”

stated an editorial in The Age, an Australian newspaper.

resources                      take action

Rapid phase out of coal essential, but not enough to hold warming below 2°C, Climate Action Tracker, September 22, 2014. (Pdf)
This report finds that a phase-out of coal plants by 2050 would achieve approximately one-quarter of the emissions reduction target necessary to limit warming to two degrees centigrade.

Climate, Faith and Hope: Faith traditions together for a common future, Interfaith Summit on Climate Change, September 21, 2014. 

This statement from interfaith leaders urges action on climate change including “coal caps or coal divestment.”
Carbon Supply Cost Curves: Evaluating Financial Risk to Coal Capital Expenditures, Carbon Tracker Initiative, September 22, 2014. (Pdf)

This is a must-read report which provides a detailed country-by-country analysis of the critical trends affecting likely demand in key coal-importing countries. (One of the report co-authors, Tim Buckley, has written in RenewEconomy of the key changes affecting coal demand in China.)

Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis - Version 8.0, Lazard, September 2014.

This report details the latest analysis of comparative US costs of competing power generation technologies.  Energy efficiency and wind are already cheaper than coal and gas. Solar at utility scale is estimated to become cheaper than coal by 2017.

Reclaim Power's Day of Action on Coal

Reclaim Power's Week of Action on Energy, October 10-18, and Day of Action on Coal, October 17, are fast approaching. The week will be used to highlight demands to change our energy systems and stop climate change. You can share your action or join an action here.

Suggested Tweet: Either we stop #coal or it stops us. Take action on October 17 against this #climate killer. #ReclaimPower

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