Let Them Eat Coal: Why the G7 must stop burning coal to tackle climate change and fight hunger

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Climate change is already the biggest threat to winning the fight against hunger. Coal is the biggest single cause of climate change, yet the G7 countries are still burning huge amounts, despite efficient, affordable, renewable alternatives being available. G7 coal power stations emit twice as much fossil fuel CO2 as the whole of Africa, and their contribution to global warming will cost Africa alone more than $43bn per year by the 2080s and $84bn by 2100, and lead to several million tonnes of staple crops lost worldwide. This year will see crucial new UN climate talks in Paris. To set the tone for a successful climate agreement at the UN talks in December, the G7 must lead the world in setting out clear plans for a just transition away from coal. This Oxfam briefing paper shows how with the right mix of regulatory and policy measures, some countries can move to coal-free electricity grids within the next decade. Oxfam commissioned the think-tank E3G to review the current coal situation in all G7 countries. This paper summarizes their findings
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  204 OXFAM BRIEFING PAPER 6 JUNE 2015 www.oxfam.org Successive droughts in Chad ‟s Bahr el Gazel region have reduced food and pasture. Climate change is set to make survival even more difficult for vulnerable communities. Chad, 2013. Photo: Ella Dickinson/ Oxfam LET THEM EAT COAL Why the G7 must stop burning coal to tackle climate change and fight hunger  2 Climate change is already affecting what we all eat, and is the biggest threat to winning the fight against hunger. Coal is the biggest single cause of climate change, yet the G7 countries are still burning huge amounts, despite efficient, affordable, renewable alternatives being available. G7 coal power stations emit twice as much fossil fuel CO 2  as the whole of Africa, and their contribution to global warming will cost Africa alone more than $43bn per year by the 2080s and $84bn by 2100, and lead to several million tonnes of staple crops lost worldwide. To set the tone for a successful climate agreement at the UN talks in Paris in December 2015, the G7 must lead the world in setting out clear plans for a just transition away from coal. With the right mix of regulatory and policy measures, some countries can move to coal-free electricity grids within the next decade. ENDORSEMENTS FOR „LET THEM EAT COAL‟   Prof. Olivier De Schutter Former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food (2008  – 14) ‘C  oal-fired power stations increasingly look like weapons of destruction aimed at those who suffer the impacts of changing rainfall patterns as well as of extreme weather events. ’    Sharon Burrow General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) ‘The G7 can lead the way with a commitment to no new coal and fossil fuel exploration, a plan for a just transition in phasing out polluting energy with investment in clean ene rgy, community renewal and jobs.’    Nick Molho Executive Director, Aldersgate Group ‘A clear programme to close the G7’s coal plants, which tend to be old and have already made their return on investment, is a cost-effective first step to reducing the G7’s carbon emissions and an absolute necessity if the rest of the world is to follow suit and increasingly invest in low-carbon forms of energy generation.’    Dr Saleemul Huq Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Bangladesh ‘  Every tonne of coal that is burnt adds to the climate change burden on Bangladesh and other vulnerable nations  –  stealing land with sea level rise and making food harder to grow. ’    Dr Michael Grubb Professor of International Energy and Climate Change Policy at University College London ‘  The G7 can strongly influence how much action the rest of the world takes by matching its words with hard action. ’      3 Dessima Williams Former Chair of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (2009  – 2011) ‘  Oxfam International has gotten it right and the report should be heeded. Phasing out coal must commence now. ’    Wael Hmaidan International Director, Climate Action Network (CAN) ‘  The science is clear  –  to keep the climate safe we need to reduce carbon  pollution from the power sector to zero by the middle of the century. The first step in making that happen is for the richest countries, like those in the G7, to form a credible plan to phase out dirty coal power. ’    Farhana Yamin Founder and CEO, Track 0 ‘All countries must pled  ge themselves to a zero carbon pathway, but as this timely Oxfam report makes clear, the G7 have the responsibility and the capacity to lead the way.’    Steve Howard Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA Group ‘This Oxfam report provides more evidence that the  prosperity of communities everywhere depends on a rapid transition to a low carbon economy and a move away from fossil fuels. At IKEA Group, we’re committed to going 100% renewable, and by 2020 we aim to produce as much renewable energy as all the energy w  e use.’     4 SUMMARY This year will see crucial new climate talks in Paris in December. Clear leadership on climate from the G7 at their meeting in Germany could lead to a breakthrough in Paris. Clear leadership from the G7 means concrete plans to reduce their own emissions and to mobilize climate finance. Why the G7 must kick their coal habit Coal is the single biggest driver of catastrophic climate change  –  responsible for one-third of all CO 2  emissions since the industrial revolution. 1  Moving beyond it is the first acid test of whether we will win the fight against runaway climate change. Each coal power station can be seen as a weapon of climate destruction  –  fuelling ruinous weather patterns, devastating harvests, driving food price rises and ultimately leaving more people facing hunger. With these climate impacts falling disproportionately on the most vulnerable and least food-secure people, the burning of coal is further exacerbating inequality. Without urgent action, climate change could put back the fight against hunger by several decades. 2  Using new modelling from Climate Analytics and the AD-RICE2012 model, Oxfam estimates that on current policies, G7 coal emissions will be responsible for total climate change-related costs in Africa of approximately $43bn per year by the 2080s and $84bn per year by the end of the century. This is sixty times what G7 countries give Africa in agricultural and rural development aid and more than three times what G7 countries give Africa in total bilateral aid. 3  Global costs of G7 coal emissions will be $260bn per year by the 2080s and $450bn per year by the end of the century. 4  With current levels of G7 action, G7 coal emissions would reduce yields of staple crops by around 0.5 percent globally and 1 percent in the poorest countries by the 2080s compared with 1980 levels, meaning less food in the context of a rising population. This is equivalent to seven million tonnes of crops lost every year. 5  While more than half of today's coal consumption is in developing countries, the scale of G7 coal burning is considerable. If G7 coal plants were a single country, it would be the fifth most polluting in the world. 6  G7 coal plants emit twice as much fossil fuel CO 2   as the entire African continent, 7  and ten times as much as the 48 least developed countries. 8  Five of the G7 countries (including the 2015 Chair, Germany) are actually burning more coal since 2009, the year of the Copenhagen climate summit. 9   G7 countries must switch from a „do as we say‟ approach to „do as we do‟  by phasing out their own coal pollution. The best way for the G7 to inspire ambition from others, including from higher-emitting and rapidly growing developing countries, is to make clear that a low-carbon future is a political priority, and demonstrate that it is possible to phase out coal and maintain a healthy economy. G7 coal emissions could cost Africa $43bn  per year by 2080s and $84bn by the end of the century. This is sixty times what G7 countries give Africa in agricultural and rural development aid. G7 coal emissions could mean millions of tonnes of crops lost per year by the 2080s. Five G7 countries have been burning more coal since 2009, the year of the Copenhagen climate summit.
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