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Blog Posts: coal

  • King Coal’s Climate Challenge

    Coal is emerging as a major topic of conversation at the United Nations climate-change negotiations currently taking place in Warsaw – and rightly so. Indeed, it is a discussion that the world needs to have.

    The latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conclude that we are quickly using up our carbon “budget” – the amount of carbon that we can afford to emit while still having a good chance of limiting global warming to 2º Celsius. According to the IPCC, keeping the global temperature increase from pre-industrial levels below this threshold – the recognized tipping point beyond which climate change is likely to get seriously out of control – requires that the world emit only about 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC). More than half of this amount was already emitted by 2011. Unless we shift away from carbon-intensive behavior, the remaining budget will run out in roughly three decades.

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  • Unabated Coal Use Will Break World’s “Carbon Budget”

    While many people are traveling to Warsaw this week to participate in the international climate negotiations (COP 19), the city is also hosting another global conference: the International Coal and Climate Summit. It’s a troubling juxtaposition—coal contributes to 43 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it a major driver of climate change. In fact, a new statement released by leading scientists suggests that nearly three-quarters of fossil fuel reserves—especially coal—must remain unused if the world is to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. In other words, limiting sea level rise, extreme weather events, heat waves, and other climate impacts requires staying within world’s “carbon budget”—which doesn’t include unabated coal use.

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  • 5 Ways Illinois Can Reduce Power Plant Emissions

    Like all U.S. states, Illinois will need to reduce its power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in order to alleviate climate change impacts and comply with future EPA standards. The good news is that the state has already taken steps to reduce its emissions, including saving energy and increasing its use of renewable energy sources. And, Illinois has the potential to go even further. New WRI analysis finds that Illinois can reduce its CO2 emissions 35 percent below 2011 levels by 2020 just by complying with current policies and taking advantage of existing infrastructure. Achieving these reductions will allow Illinois to meet or exceed moderately ambitious EPA power plant emissions standards, which are due to be finalized in 2015.

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  • Water Risks on the Rise for Three Global Energy Production Hot Spots

    Energy and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, supported by data and analysis from WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, surveyed water risks among the world’s top energy-producing regions. They found that three energy sectors face particularly high water risks: shale gas in the United States, coal production and coal-fired power in China, and crude oil in the Middle East.

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  • U.S. Signals the End of Public Money for Coal-Fired Power

    U.S. public financing for overseas coal-fired power is likely coming to an end.

    That’s the clear signal from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s announcement earlier this week. At institutions like the World Bank, where the United States is the largest shareholder, this decision holds real significance.

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  • China’s Response to Air Pollution Poses Threat to Water

    Record-setting levels of smog this week shut down Harbin, a city of 11 million people in northeast China. Officials blamed increased coal consumption during the first days of winter heating, underscoring the urgency of the China State Council’s recently announced initiative to address persistent smog in major cities.

    But while the Air Pollution Control Action Plan has ambitious goals—cutting air particulates and coal consumption—it may create unintended problems for the country’s water supply.

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  • Recent Progress Shows China’s Leadership on Carbon Capture and Storage

    It is common knowledge that China burns a large amount of coal, with the fuel accounting for nearly 70% of China’s primary energy consumption in recent years. What is less commonly known is that China is also working on ways to reduce the impact of its coal use, including aggressively pursuing research and demonstration of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology.

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  • Can China’s Air Pollution Action Plan Slow Down New Coal Power Development?

    Last month, China’s State Council announced a new action plan to combat air pollution, which included a prohibition of new coal-fired power plants in the three most important metropolitan areas around Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou (known as the “key-three city clusters”). But while the plan sounds like progress, will it actually slow down China’s new coal construction? A bit of analysis suggests that it may take more action to really curb China’s appetite for coal.

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  • Addressing Carbon Pollution from Power Plants Is Vital for Avoiding Catastrophic Climate Change

    Future U.S. power suppliers will need to limit their carbon pollution, thanks to new standards announced today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The proposed emissions standards for new power plants are an important measure in implementing the President’s Climate Action Plan (announced in June) to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate global warming.

    EPA’s announcement comes against the backdrop of our deepening understanding of the science of climate change. It also arrives as we witness multiple extreme weather events that present a vivid picture of what we are likely to experience in a changing world. This summer, we saw record rainfalls on the southeast coast, massive wildfires in California and Idaho, and most recently, deadly flooding in Colorado. These extreme events--to say nothing of their massive economic cost--remind us of why the United States has an obligation to cut its emissions.

    As we’ve previously written, the President’s plan recommits the United States to meeting its international commitment of reducing its GHG emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. With these new standards--along with additional recent steps toward increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions of potent greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons and methane--the Administration is making progress in all of the sectors WRI identified in our report earlier this year.

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  • Majority of China’s Proposed Coal-Fired Power Plants Located in Water-Stressed Regions

    To maintain its economic growth and provide for its massive population, China must reconcile two powerful, converging trends: energy demand and resource scarcity. One prime example of this tension is the country’s coal use and water supply.

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