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The world burns record coal to keep lights on

The world is likely to generate a record amount of electricity this year from the dirtiest source ever, indicating how long the energy transition still has to travel in the fight against climate change. climate change.

It is estimated that coal-fired generation will register an increase of 9% compared to last year, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) Posted on Friday. That turn after the falls of the previous two years threatens the progress that the world has made to reach net zero of emissions by 2050, the organization said.

The United States and the European Union recorded the largest increases in the use of Coal, with increases of about 20% each; followed by India, with 12%; and China, the world’s largest consumer, with 9%, the IEA estimated. The pullback is fueled by the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which is outpacing the ability of low-carbon energy sources to maintain supply.

“Coal is the largest source of global carbon emissions, and this year’s historically high level of coal-fired power generation is a worrying sign of how far the world is in its efforts to bring emissions down to zero. ”Said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

Record natural gas prices have increased dependence on other sources, such as coal, prompting faster investment in renewables. Energy prices in Europe have more than tripled in the last six months and it has become more profitable to burn coal than gas. However, utilities have struggled to achieve this despite the fact that China and the US are increasing their production.

Carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal are now estimated to be at least 3 billion tonnes higher in 2024 than in a scenario where net zero is reached by 2050, according to the report. The IEA expects the peak of coal to come next year, at 8.110 million tonnes, with the biggest increases in production coming from China, Russia and Pakistan.

The Paris-based IEA noted in May that development of new sources of oil, gas and coal must stop this year if the world is to meet emissions targets in line with the Paris Agreement. Climate activists were dismayed in November when a key aspiration from the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit in Scotland was thwarted to make way for a pledge to “gradually reduce” – rather than “eliminate” – carbon consumption. After that, the Administration of US President Joe Biden suspended federal aid to new fossil fuel projects abroad.

Some banks have vowed to phase out their coal funding, although activists want to see more urgency. This year, the demand for coal in general – both for power generation and for the production of cement and steel – will rise 6%, according to the IEA.

That demand could hit a record next year, depending on economic growth and weather patterns, the agency said.

Regional disparities in usage are manifesting globally as Europe shuts down coal-fired power plants while China and India ramp up production. The European Union stepped up its climate commitment in July, targeting a 55% drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from a baseline in 1990, with a focus on a transition to cleaner sources. It is a difficult goal, especially considering that countries like Poland and the Czech Republic use mainly coal and lignite.

For now, China accounts for about half of the world’s coal production and needs to meet growing domestic demand. The government has pressured mining companies to lower prices and lower the cost of burning coal during this year’s energy crisis, which led to blackouts and rationing in the country.

“It’s disappointing that coal-fired power could hit a record high in the same year countries agreed to phase out,” said Dave Jones, global program leader for the Ember climate think tank. “Coal-fired power will inevitably start to decline soon: China has pledged to start cutting coal in 2025, while India’s huge renewables target should eliminate the need for more coal.”


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