Who is keeping coal alive? (The Economist – June 4, 2023)


The financiers saving the world’s dirtiest fuel from extinction

Mountains of coal are piled beneath azure skies at the port of Newcastle, Australia. Giant shovels chip away at them, scooping the fuel onto conveyor belts, which whizz it to cargo ships that can be as long as three football pitches. The harbour’s terminals handle 200m tonnes of the stuff a year, making Newcastle the world’s biggest coal port.

Throughput is roaring back after floods hurt supply last year. Aaron Johansen, who oversees NCIG, the newest, uber-automated terminal, expects it to stay near all-time highs for at least seven years. Rich Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea, are hungry for the premium coal that passes through the terminal. So, increasingly, are developing ones like Malaysia and Vietnam.

Halfway across the world the mood music is rather different. In recent weeks activists have made use of quotes from great writers, including Shakespeare (“Don’t shuffle off this mortal coil”) and the Spice Girls (“Stop right now”), to disrupt annual-general meetings of European banks and energy firms, as part of a call for an end to coal extraction.

A broader chorus worries that the fuel is the biggest source of greenhouse gas, making up 42% of energy-related carbon emissions in 2022. The un says output must fall by 11% a year to keep warming less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The International Energy Agency (IEA), an official forecaster, argues against opening new mines and expanding existing ones. Climate wonks think that 80% of reserves must remain unburnt.

For the rest of this article: https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2023/06/04/who-is-keeping-coal-alive?utm_content=article-link-1&etear=nl_sunday_today_1&utm_campaign=r.the-economist-sunday-today&utm_medium=email.internal-newsletter.np&utm_source=salesforce-marketing-cloud&utm_term=6/4/2023&utm_id=1623201