New coal plants represent the most “urgent threat” to the future of the planet, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has warned. In a somewhat alarmist speech that effectively ranked coal power ahead of militant Islam or government debt as the one factor most likely to cause global catastrophe, Angel Gurria said that governments must reach zero emissions, warning: “There is little time left – the carbon clock is ticking!”
Governments should think “twice, or three, or four times” before giving new coal plants the go-ahead, Mr Gurria said, advising that the coal plants “will still be emitting years from now,” and risked turning into “stranded assets”.
Mr Gurria’s remarks came during his second annual climate change lecture delivered at the London School of Economics last week. He told the audience: “Governments need to be seriously sceptical about whether new coal provides a good deal for their citizens,” not least because, if global warming is to remain under 2°C, coal plants will have to be taken offline before they come to the end of their natural lives.
Turning to possible solutions, Mr Gurria proposed that “we need strong, credible and predictable climate policies, in particular a price on carbon and the elimination of both consumer and producer subsidies that support incumbent fossil fuels.” Adopting the religious language favoured by warmists, he added: “These are, in climate terms, “sins of commission” for which there is no excuse.”
But he lamented that opportunities had already been lost, saying that falling fuel prices ought to have been seized on by governments as an opportunity to raise green taxes, keeping the price the same at the pump.
His lecture came as the OECD published a report showing that without new mitigation measures, coal generation is projected to emit more than 500 billion tonnes of CO2 between now and 2050 which would account for around half the remaining “carbon budget” required to keep the global temperature rise below 2°C.
But the OECD appears to have simply ingnored a weight of evidence showing that failure to allow developing countries to exploit cheap fossil fuels is already having a humanitarian impact on a massive scale.
A 2014 briefing note by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that around 3 billion people – more than 40 percent of the world’s population – still cook and heat their homes using open fires and basic fuels, including wood, dung, crop waste and coal.
As a result, more than 4 million people die each year from illnesses attributable to household air pollution, and a further 3.8 from diseases associates with household air pollution, such as heart disease and lung cancer.
The WHO notes: “In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.”
Mr Gurria accepts that coal is a cheap and readily available source of energy for many of these people, yet, taking a line which is becoming very familiar in the run up to the next climate summit in Paris later this year, he insists that it is up to developed countries to pay for developing countries to install expensive renewable energy sources, rather than allow them to simply tap into the wealth of fossil fuel energy available.
“If low-carbon alternatives prove not to be affordable relative to coal generation for some developing countries, donor countries should mobilise finance to close the financial cost gap,” he said.
But again, this line of reasoning ignores the realities of the situation – one of the countries classed by the UN as “developed”, and therefore in line to pay some of the US$100 billion by 2020 is none other than Greece, currently on the verge of bankruptcy itself thanks to a disastrous and ongoing experiment with the Euro.
In 2008, in the midst of the credit crunch crisis, Greece donated €1m to the Global Island Green Finance Facility, designed to “support Small Island Developing States in responding to the challenges posed by climate change.” And as a member of the EU, it is also legally committed to making the transition from fossil fuels to renewables at home, securing 20 percent of it’s own energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.
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