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Climate Change Hero

Climate Change Blog

  • 08
  • July
  • 2015

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New Study Reports that Europe is Increasing Coal Use as Nations Prepare for Climate Change Talks

In a sensationally-titled briefing paper (“Let Them Eat Coal”), Oxfam reports that five of the G7 nations have increased their coal consumption over the past five years, and are burning more coal now than they did in 2009—the year of the Copenhagen climate summit. Further coverage of this issue indicates that G7 nations Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan, and France collectively burned 16% more coal in 2013 than in 2009 and are planning to increase construction of coal-fired power stations. Oxfam reports that the U.S. and Canada are the only G7 countries that reduced their coal consumption in the past few years. Oxfam published its paper as 193 nations prepare to meet in Paris to discuss a new international climate change agreement at the end of the year.

G7 nations

In the paper, Oxfam argues that coal is the single biggest driver of climate change, and encourages the G7 nations to commit to transitioning away from the use of coal in the upcoming decades. According to Oxfam, G7 coal power stations emit twice as much fossil fuel CO2 as the whole of Africa, and ten times as much as the 48 least developed countries. The report recommends different timelines for specific G7 countries to cut coal use, including a deadline to complete the transition off of coal for the U.S. by 2030.  

As discussed in this previous post, coal-fired power plants have been retiring at an unprecedented rate in the U.S., and current projections suggest that this rate may increase further if additional regulations on air emissions, such as the Clean Power Plan, are finalized. The Oxfam briefing paper notes this trend.  The paper explains that the U.S. is still the world’s second-biggest coal consumer, but notes that grassroots opposition has led to the “closure or scheduled retirement of 189 existing plants since 2010 (one-third of the size of the US coal fleet).”  

According to the report, while the U.S. has “reduced its coal consumption by 8% [between 2009 and 2013] largely because of fracking for shale gas,” the total reduction from the G7 countries during that same time period has been less than 1%. Meanwhile, developing nations and groups like Oxfam are putting pressure on developed nations to cut their emissions as part of the anticipated Paris Agreement on climate change.   

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