Coal power stations will remain central to the world's energy supply for the next 40 years, but they must slash emissions to avoid pushing up global temperatures, an environmental group said Nov. 26. The plants could still provide 20% of the world's energy needs in 2050 with only a limited rise in temperatures if they used technology that could capture carbon dioxide, said Ina Pozon, co-ordinator of WWF International's Asia Pacific Coal Initiative.
"Governments must get industry to prove the viability of clean coal technologies, otherwise social and environmental impacts of local pollution and global climate change will prohibit large scale use of coal," Pozon said.
The WWF released two reports that examined whether there could be a reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions by 60% to 80%, while still accepting that worldwide energy demand would double by 2050. The study found that a combination of more renewable energy, drastic efficiency improvement and cleaner coal and gas, could meet the target.
"Asian nations can't just keep relying on coal as a cheap and available source of energy, but need to boost energy efficiency and become serious about renewable energy now," Pozon said.
One of the WWF reports said the true cost of coal in China, if it reflected its full social and environmental impact, would increase by 56% from its current price. The increase would make the cost of coal similar to that of wind technology, the report said. Currently, coal accounts for about 70% of China's primary energy consumption, more than 40 percentage points higher than the world's average.