The un climate conference in katowice a message from the european capital of coal bruegel electricity in the body

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This year’s United Nations climate-change conference (COP24) opened this week in Katowice, the European capital of coal. Over the next days, the international delegates who have converged on the Polish city to negotiate a rule-book to make the Paris Agreement work will frequently experience the thick blanket of smog characterising the city: a material reminder of the urgency to move towards a clean-energy world.

Given the most recent trends in global CO 2 emissions, even such a reminder is particularly welcomed. In fact, the world is currently well short of the trajectory agreed in Paris to tackle climate change. electricity flow chart Last year, global energy-related CO 2 emissions reached a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes and preliminary data from the International Energy Agency suggest this trend will just get worse this year. And energy-related air pollution, such as heavily affects Katowice, continues to result in millions of premature deaths each year across the globe.

Coal continues to play a major role in the electricity generation for several EU countries: 80% in Poland, and over 40% in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Greece. Even the gas-exporting Netherlands produces 35% of its electricity from coal. So far, only a few EU countries – such as France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK – have pledged to shut down their coal-fired power plants altogether. This needs to change, because coal’s lingering place in the EU energy system is disastrous for the climate, for the environment, and for human health.

From a climate perspective, coal is the worst way to generate electricity – even compared to other fossil fuels. A coal-fired power plant emits 40% more carbon dioxide than a gas-fired plant producing the same amount of electricity, and 20% more than an oil-fired plant. To look at it another way, coal is responsible for 75% of carbon emissions in the European electricity sector, but only produces 25% of our electricity. Electricity generation produces a quarter of Europe’s total carbon emissions, and is vital in plans to green other sectors. gas hydrates india Decarbonising electricity is vital. After all, a shift to electric cars will mean little if we power them with electricity from coal.

Energy security is a valid concern. A country highly reliant on coal cannot switch overnight to cleaner sources of electricity. gas under 3 dollars However, the transition is feasible. Several countries have already successfully phased out coal without compromising energy security and competitiveness. It is a question of good planning, and that needs to start now.

The socio-economic argument about job losses is also unconvincing. Coal-mining employment in Europe is no longer a major issue. gas leak los angeles california The country with the highest number of coal-mining jobs is Poland, with 100,000 people employed. This represents a mere 0.7% of Poland’s total employment. In all other countries coal-mining employment stands below 30,000 units, always representing less than 0.6% of total employment.

For instance, we calculated that the EU could put in place a sensible scheme to help coal miners who will lose their jobs with just €150 million per year: a mere 0.1% of the total EU budget. This small investment would have an important leverage, reducing the political damage and incentivising coal-reliant countries to start or accelerate their phase-out plans.

Climate change is a complex global problem that needs international solutions. But it is clear that coal needs to go. a gas mixture is made by combining By compensating regions that still depend on coal mining, the EU can show solidarity with those who have something to lose from the phase-out. It can also speed up the transition, generating substantial benefits for all Europeans in terms of climate, environment and health. By doing so, the EU could also provide a blueprint that might then be followed by others around the globe. This would certainly represent a tangible and important contribution to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.