LET THEM EAT COAL
Why the G7 must stop burning coal to tackle climate change and fight hunger
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 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. 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.
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 CO2 emissions since the industrial
revolution. 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 foodsecure
people, the burning of coal is further exacerbating inequality.
Without urgent action, climate change could put back the fight against
hunger by several decades.
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.
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 CO2 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.
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
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
Rich industrialized countries must stop hiding behind countries like China
and take the lead in kicking their own coal habit.
How the G7 can kick their coal habit
Current G7 policies, like emissions trading schemes and carbon pricing,
have so far failed to dent coal emissions in G7 countries. It is not enough to
assume that coal will be edged out through renewable energy targets or
overall emission reduction targets. As can be seen in Germany and the UK,
without direct government action targeted at coal in particular, it remains a
stubborn problem, with persistent coal emissions threatening to undermine
existing climate targets.
Oxfam commissioned the think-tank E3G to review the current coal situation
in all G7 countries, identifying the market dynamics and policy measures in
place and the timelines under which coal use could feasibly be ended. With
the political will to confront the vested interests in the fossil fuel industry,
and concrete plans, it is clear that this transition can be made quickly –
some countries can move to coal-free electricity grids within the next
What is more, a fair and well-planned transition from coal will have
economic, health and employment benefits. For example, 650,000 new
green jobs would be created in the US, and 430,000 additional green jobs
generated in the EU, if a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy
G7 leaders should:
1. Commit to an urgent transition away from unabated coal. Some countries
will be able to do this faster than others, given different energy mixes and
starting points. Country-specific plans and policies should ensure this
transition is complete in:
• Canada: by 2030
• France: by 2020
• Germany: by 2040
• Italy: by early 2020s
• Japan: by 2035
• UK: by 2023
• US: by 2030
2. Stand by existing commitments to mobilize $100bn per year by 2020 for
tackling climate change in developing countries. G7 countries should
commit to a transparent roadmap to significantly scale up public finance
before 2020 and increase the proportion of funds flowing to adaptation.
Oxfam’s Full 40 page Report “Let Them Eat Coal” – https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp204-let-them-eat-coal-climate-g7-060615-en.pdf