While many people believe coal is incompatible with meeting the challenge of climate change, the World Coal Association (WCA) disagrees.
Together with the Polish Ministry of Economy, the WCA has developed “The Warsaw Communiqué” to address steps that can be taken to tackle climate change and allow coal to continue to play its role as an affordable, abundant, easily accessible source of energy. Its message includes a three-step call to action:
- For the immediate use of high-efficiency, low-emissions coal combustion technologies, wherever it is economically and technically feasible at existing and new power plants, as an immediate step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants around the world and a necessary milestone toward the deployment of carbon capture utilization and storage technologies once demonstrated and commercialized.
- For governments to set an ambitious pathway, before the 20th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP20), to move the global average efficiency of coal-fired power generation plants to current state of the art levels and to support research and development efforts to further improve the efficiency of coal combustion technologies.
- For development banks to support developing countries in accessing clean coal technologies, including high-efficiency, low-emissions coal combustion technologies.
The Warsaw Communiqué, with a list of all signatories, will be delivered to the president of COP19, which is being held in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 11–22, 2013. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty negotiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 3–14, 1992. The objective of the treaty is to “stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
COP1 was held in Berlin, Germany, in 1995. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concluded and established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their GHG emissions.
The WCA has been committed to minimizing GHG emissions for some time now. The organization has been promoting improved coal combustion efficiency as an important step in this effort. It notes that replacing older coal-fired power stations with larger, more-efficient plants could reduce GHG emissions by 5.5%. To put the reduction figure into context, the intended effect of all the measures included in the Kyoto Protocol is only 5%.
Other methods endorsed by the WCA include carbon capture and storage (CCS) and recovery of methane released during coal mining. The WCA believes CCS offers the opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions while maintaining the energy infrastructure needed for growth. It noted that the global warming potential of methane is 23 times greater than that of CO2, so its recovery is far more beneficial than focusing solely on CCS.
—Aaron Larson, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @AaronL_Power)