Paying the price of coal

Feature Story - 2008-11-28
The global cost of coal reached a staggering €360 billion (around US$460 billion) last year, according to a new report by Greenpeace and independent Dutch Institute CE Delft.

Get Serious, Quit Coal! Greenpeace activists tell a meeting of major polluters in Poland.

The analysts added together very modest damages from carbon dioxide, health costs and mining accidents to arrive at this figure.

This is probably an underestimation of the true costs.

A few weeks earlier, Greenpeace China released its own True Cost of Coal report (pdf) with Chinese economists which estimated the fossil fuel cost the country US$250 billion in 2007.

The methods of calculation in the two reports are different and cannot fairly be compared.

However, they do show that China is one of the key players in global coal use and therefore is bearing the brunt of coal costs.

Coal: the China scorecard

China is the world's top coal producer.

In 2006 it scooped up 2.4 billion tonnes or almost 40 percent of the global total.

China is also the world's top coal user.

In 2006 it burnt almost 1.2 billion tonnes or about 39 percent of the world's total coal burnt.

The killer costs of coal

Coal is often considered cheap.

But its market price ignores its most significant impacts.

These "external" costs include damages such as respiratory diseases, mining accidents, acid rain, smog pollution, reduced agricultural yields and climate change.

And these costs will only rise if nothing is done to stop climate change.

The Road to Copenhagen

This report was released in Poland's capital Warsaw just days before delegates from the United Nations are due to meet in the nearby city of Poznan for crucial climate change talks.

A clear draft agreement must drawn up in Poznan if a deal is to be reached that will save the world from climate change.

The draft agreement will set the stage for next December when the UN meets again in Copenhagen to draw up a new protocol.

That protocol, to be adopted in 2012, will decide on greenhouse gas emission targets for different nations and ultimately decide whether the world is willing to solve the climate change crisis.

Why quit coal?

The key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions is quitting coal.

Current renewable energy technology can provide six times our current energy needs.

So isn't it time we stopped paying for coal by killing ourselves and the planet?

The True Cost of Coal

Read Greenpeace International's True Cost of Coal Report (pdf)

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