UN’s war on coal threatens environmental progress in world’s desperate regions – by Donna Laframboise (National Post – December 4, 2013)

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Activists want new coal plants banned outright

In Warsaw last month, Christiana Figueres, an unelected United Nations bureaucrat, demanded that the World Coal Association embrace three dubious and implausible ideas. This industry must, she said, shut down a particular class of coal plant, install as-yet-unavailable carbon-capture technology on any newly constructed facilities, and “leave most existing reserves in the ground.”

In the first instance, the implications of her words weren’t immediately apparent. But a 2012 International Energy Agency report reveals that when she speaks blithely of closing “all existing subcritical plants,” she’s advocating the mothballing of 100% of South Africa’s coal fleet, 99% of India’s, 97% of Poland’s, and 90% of Australia’s.

It turns out Figueres’ standards are so pie-in-the-sky that 79% of Germany’s coal facilities, 75% of China’s, 73% of America’s, and 71% of Russia’s don’t make the cut, either. All told, this UN official believes three-quarters of the world’s existing coal fleet — fully one third of the global electricity supply — should be taken offline.

Did national and business leaders deride these outlandish demands? Did anyone say the obvious: that plunging billions back into darkness is unthinkable — and that even the richest countries can’t afford to replace perfectly serviceable power plants?

Although Figueres was speaking in Poland, she apparently failed to notice that her demands would shutter 97% of the facilities that generate 90% of that nation’s electrical power. Nor did she seem concerned that undermining the legitimacy of 70% of India’s electricity supply might imperil basic services such as sanitation, thereby unnecessarily exposing millions to water-borne killers such as cholera and dysentery.

Figueres, who is responsible for keeping alive the international treaty known as the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), insists drastic steps are necessary because carbon dioxide gets emitted when coal is burned, and there’s “an immediate need for climate stability on this planet.”

Pointing to the recently-released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), she declares that “the call of science” must be heeded. But few sober intellects regard human-induced climate change as posing an immediate threat. Serious consequences aren’t expected to manifest for decades — a fact even Figueres tacitly acknowledged when she urged coal producers to “look past next quarter’s bottom line and see the next generation’s bottom line,” when she resorted to that tired cliché about how we will be judged by “our grandchildren and their children.”

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