In December, all eyes will be on Copenhagen where the latest round of the UN climate talks will be held. This year’s talks have an added weight of expectation over them compared to previous years as national delegations have been tasked with developing a new climate agreement to replace Kyoto post-2012.
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For many, coal is usually seen as part of the climate change problem rather than the solution. The World Coal Institute (WCI) has been attending the UN climate talks for many years, giving voice to the industry’s argument that coal not only can, but has to be part of a successful solution to climate change. While our arguments have not always been greeted favourably, there has been a noticeable shift in attitudes. Governments and other stakeholders have increasingly realised that trying to tackle climate change without tackling the issue of coal is not only making an already formidable challenge that much more difficult, it is also making it much more expensive. Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, has highlighted that: 'Fossil fuels are here to stay and will continue to be the drivers of growth. It is a collective responsibility to use these fossil fuels without destroying our environment. Let us not cut off our nose to spite our face by refusing to explore the technologies that can help us to achieve this.' The major turning point has been the increasing awareness of the role that is to be played by carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has studied a number of global GHG reduction scenarios and concluded that CCS is 'the most important single new technology for CO2 savings' in both power generation and industry. The IEA found that attempting to stabilise emissions without CCS is estimated to be 71% more expensive; equivalent to US$ 1.28 trillion pa in 2050. WCI will continue its work from previous UN meetings by trying to secure agreement on CCS as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project activity at the Copenhagen talks. The CDM is the only market-based mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol that would finance CCS projects in developing countries – and yet, at present, it excludes CCS projects. As a result, developing countries are denied the opportunity to deploy this critical technology, their capacity to contribute to emissions reductions is limited and the global effort to reduce emissions is undermined. It is essential that the UNFCCC facilitates the availability of all low carbon and efficient technologies, including CCS. The limited action to further CCS during the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period has hindered efforts on CCS and must be rectified to allow this critical technology to contribute to global greenhouse gas mitigation. As Nobuo Tanaka, the head of the IEA, asserted earlier this year: 'The deployment of CCS should be a litmus test for the seriousness of environmental negotiators dealing with the climate challenge.' Getting agreement on CCS under the CDM at Copenhagen 2009 is the litmus test. Let’s hope the negotiators pass!