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Guest Comment: Issue 1 2024

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Coal,

This is the year where we stop apologising. Advocating for ‘coal elimination’ is irresponsible and it makes vulnerable nations more vulnerable. It is time people understood the facts.

Guest Comment: Issue 1 2024

In November 2023, the World Coal Association rebranded to ‘FutureCoal: The Global Alliance for Sustainable Coal’. Why did we do this? To shed a misaligned negative perception of coal and unite the global coal value chain under a shared vision.

FutureCoal reminds us that coal offers us solutions to achieve both economic progress and emissions reductions. It is easy to say that eliminating coal automatically leads to zero emissions, or that installing renewables automatically leads to 100% clean, affordable, and reliable energy; but both statements are incorrect.

Instead, we have created a roadmap that charts the course for the global coal value chain to navigate to a future of sustainability, technology (much of which exists today), innovation, and resilience. We call this Sustainable Coal Stewardship (SCS). SCS redefines the role of responsible coal participants across the mining, utilisation, and recycling sectors – empowering innovative stakeholders to lead the charge towards a sustainable society.

SCS encompasses three phases: Pre-Combustion, Combustion, and Beyond Combustion.

  • Pre-Combustion refers to the abatement opportunities in the upstream sector of the coal value chain. This encompasses efficient mining practices, digitalising operations, waste management and reuse, and land rehabilitation and restoration (among other initiatives).
  • Combustion describes the range of efficient technologies, which, when combined, support power and heat utilities to abate and capture up to 99% of emissions. Technologies include Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE), and co-firing with carbon neutral fuels.
  • Beyond Combustion embodies our vision of pioneering business opportunities that convert coal into high-value products. These encompass Coal-to-Liquids (CTL), synthetic liquid hydrocarbons, hydrogen, methanol, steel, cement, and critical minerals for our digitised and electrified future.

During my conversations with governments, CEOs, journalists, investors, and other stakeholders, a prominent trend is emerging where countries are rethinking their stance on coal, being challenged to view this critical resource as strategic and not stranded.

For India and China, who already have the SCS mindset, investment to the tune of billions is already underway in abated coal technology (including coal gasification, coal-to-liquids, coal-to-hydrogen, and more), in order to meet environmental goals, create quality employment, drive economic growth, and stimulate innovation – all while retaining coal in their mix.

Other developing nations see the strength in this. They know that conversations about moving away from coal are unrealistic and Global North ‘conditional’ funding does not always support a nation’s right to leverage its natural resources and extract maximum value from them.

This year, FutureCoal gives the global coal value chain the platform it called for: to work together, invest, develop, and deploy abatement technologies and multi-commodity products from coal. The funding opportunities exist, the technology is available, and the demand is there. Nonetheless, let us be clear the coal value chain needs to change and align to capitalise on this opportunity. It needs to understand that the new coal era is abated.

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