Global consumption of coal hit a record high in 2022. And there’s no end in sight for the dirtiest of fossil fuels, writes David Olive, despite promises to rid the world of its use a decade ago.
The world, and especially the Western economies, gave the impression of intending to get rid of coal more than a decade ago. And so, the dirtiest of fossil fuels causing climate change has long been thought to be in decline. Not so.
Global coal consumption hit a record high in 2022 and is expected to increase again this year. Climate scientists have said that if the world temperature is to be kept from rising more than 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, coal production must drop by more than two-thirds by 2030. Instead, it is projected to fall by less than 20 per cent in that time.
Some Western jurisdictions have cut back on coal. Ontario closed the last of its coal-fired power plants in 2014. And many North American electric utilities have switched from coal to natural gas. But coal remains in high demand in many of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies, including China, India and Indonesia.
Though China has ambitions to build scores of nuclear power plants, for now it relies on more than 1,100 coal-fired power plants. India has 285 of them, and Indonesia operates 87. Canada, too, is complicit in the continued viability of the coal industry.