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A coal fired power station in Queensland © James Morgan / WWF

A coal fired power station in Queensland © James Morgan / WWF

Rich nations put billions into coal as climate crisis deepens: report

02 Jun 2015

Keywords
  • coal
  • carbon pollution
  • climate change
  • energy
  • renewable energy

A new report released internationally today shows that governments worldwide poured more than US$73 billion between 2007 and 2014– or US$9 billion a year – into high-carbon polluting coal projects.
 
As the scope of the climate crisis has deepened, nations of the world have made repeated and clear commitments to fight climate change and end fossil fuel subsidies. Virtually all nations have made commitments to limit global temperature rise to 2°C.
 
The report by WWF, Natural Resources Defense Council and Oil Change International shows that government subsidies for coal projects have continued unabated, with Australia among the largest providers and recipients of coal finance. 
 
This is despite the latest IPCC findings that 75 per cent of the world’s fossil fuels must remain in the ground if we are to keep global warming below 2 degrees - a commitment that Australia and over 190 other countries have agreed to. 
 
“There is clearly a disconnect between taking serious action on climate change and continuing to subsidise coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels,” said WWF-Australia’s Climate Change Manager Kellie Caught.
 
“If coal use continues unchecked, it will lock the planet into dangerous levels of warming. Australia and many of our closest neighbours stand to lose the most from these impacts unless decisive action is taken.”
 
Australia and other developed nations have the opportunity to reverse the trend towards investing in dirty development and shift public finds into projects that support sustainable growth within our region.
 
“There is a real opportunity for Australia to help our neighbours shift away from a dependence on fossil fuels and avoid locking in high-polluting energy systems for decades to come,” Ms Caught said.
 
Recent growth in the global renewable energy market (16 per cent in 20141) has come at the same time that demand for coal in countries such as China has declined2.
 
“Australia’s potential for renewable energy generation has been estimated at 500 times greater than its current power generation capacity,” Ms Caught said.
 
“Imagine the opportunities for Australia if we could shift this public financing for coal projects to help produce more jobs and cleaner air both at home and in other countries.”  
 
Divestment campaigns from major financial institutions also provide clear signals that investing in high-polluting energy systems is no longer acceptable if climate change goals are to be met.
 
The report acknowledged that coal finance in 2014 declined, and welcomed this as a first step to curbing public support for fossil fuels.
 
“It makes sense that Australia follows this global trend and shifts public financing into clean energy, which is becoming cheaper and more reliable,” Ms Caught said.
 
“This is good for Australia, for the sustainable growth of other countries, and ultimately for the planet.”

WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Charlie Stevens, Senior Communications Officer
 
1. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-09/clean-energy-investment-jumps-16-on-china-s-support-for-solar
2. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/26/china-coal-idUSL3N0WL32720150326

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