Coal provides 41% of the world’s electrical power but 72% of power-sector emissions. “Let Them Eat Coal”, a report by the international relief charity Oxfam, warns that continuing to burn coal will kill millions because of the food shortages that climate change will cause. It points out: “Each coal power station can be seen as a weapon of climate destruction—fuelling ruinous weather patterns, devastating harvests, driving food price rises and ultimately leaving more people facing hunger. With these climate impacts falling disproportionately on the most vulnerable and least food-secure people, the burning of coal is further exacerbating inequality.”
The nations of the G7 coal plants emit twice as much fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions as the whole of Africa, and that “rich industrialised countries must stop hiding behind countries like China and take the lead in kicking their own coal habit”.
The report warns: “Coal power plants are the biggest obstacle standing between us and the internationally-agreed target to limit warming to 2 degrees Centigrade.”
Germany, which sees itself as a world leader in renewables and is the G7 host, has opened massive new coal-burning plants and will take longest to phase out coal unless it is prepared to lose money.
Professor Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. He said coal-fired stations “increasingly look like weapons of destruction aimed at those who suffer the impacts of changing rainfall patterns as well as of extreme weather events. Getting rid of our addiction to coal is both possible and necessary.”
Dr Michael Grubb, senior research fellow at the Cambridge University Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research, said: “The extraordinary irony is that study after study is showing that coal is bad for G7 economies. The damages associated with extracting and burning coal outweigh any apparent economic value—before even considering its impact on climate change.”