Despite playing host to the UN climate change negotiations this week, the Polish government also invited the World Coal Association (WCA) to unveil plans for “high-efficiency” or clean coal during the negotiations — where Donald Tusk and his gang are also playing the hosts.
Public health and environmental activists took to the streets to protest outside the WCA conference at their ‘Cough4Coal’ street theatre and action, arguing that the Polish government’s deep support for the dirtiest of fuels is in defiance of climate science, health concerns and the deteriorating economics of coal the world moves away from fossil fuels.
Additionally, 27 top scientists from around the world discredit the claim that “high efficiency coal” represents the energy of the future or provides any meaningful solution to the world’s health and climate woes.
The health impacts of coal throw serious doubts over the validity of its place in the global energy mix. Medical studies paint a stark picture: pollution from coal causes over 100,000 deaths in India, 18,200 deaths in Europe, 13,200 in deaths in the US and 3,500 deaths in Poland every single year.
Discussing this greenwash as a solution to climate change is tantamount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic — it ignores the real reason why climate change is happening and offers no true benefit.
If the world is to remain under an average warming of 2°C, then the coal ship must be abandoned altogether in favor of truly clean, renewables. This is what the science says, and, as the world ramps up climate action, this is also what economic reality will dictate.
There is no such thing as clean coal, and the industry’s two-day summit alongside the UN climate negotiations at COP19 is a greenwashing exercise as ham-fisted as Poland’s climate diplomacy, reinforcing the country’s hard-earned “Coaland” nickname.
Attention has also turned to the role of banks in keeping the coal industry afloat, as the new report “Banking on Coal” unveils the top companies bankrolling the coal industry.
The report reveals that despite expressing commitments to a low-carbon economy, banks including CITI, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank continue to make vast investments in the coal industry.
These banks keep their dirty coal investments secret, as they know investing in coal is bad PR because of its harms to the environment, public health and global climate. They are also running an increasingly high risk that these investments will become stranded assets as climate action grows and more and more people stand up against dirty, short term profiteering by fossil fuel companies.
The World Bank and others have reacted to the writing on the wall by pulling away from coal projects. It is time key international banks and backward facing governments — like those of Poland, Canada and Australia — to do the same.