Only four months ago, the world recognised the need to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees C. The Paris climate agreement signalled the end of the era of fossil fuels, particularly coal, the dirtiest source of power. But since then, Australia has gone ahead and approved what could be the world’s largest coal mine.
Hay Point Coal Terminal. © Greenpeace
Last year, the then President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, called on world leaders to join him in a global moratorium on all new coal mines. This week, on the eve of the signing of the Paris agreement, I’m in the US with Tong to help him continue the push for what should be one of the first and easiest steps in securing a safe climate.
New analysis commissioned by Greenpeace from the University of Melbourne spells out what a moratorium would mean for the world and five reasons why we need one now:
1. Land. If we put a stop to all new coal mines now, we would protect some 7.6 million acres of land from mining disturbance by 2050. That’s an area around the size of Belgium and an estimated 9.7 billion tonnes of forest and soil carbon emissions – equivalent to the carbon stored in around 15 billion trees.
Adani Group Sign on the Carmichael exploration site in Australia. 19 March 2014 © Greenpeace / Tom Jefferson
2. Health. Pollution associated with coal is a serious hazard and one of the reasons China has already introduced a 3 year moratorium on new coal mines. If no new coal mines are built, we could prevent about 10 million coal-related deaths, principally from air pollution, to 2050.
3. Jobs. In the short term, a moratorium would actually increase job security in mines: existing mines would become more valuable allowing time for a just transition to new jobs in a greener economy. The industry will then gradually shrink, halving by 2030.
4. Finance. The world would save a massive US$80 billion between now and 2050 in clean up costs of coal mines. Imagine if we invested that in renewable energy.
5. Climate. While business-as-usual would consume the global carbon budget allocation for coal up to 4 times over by 2050, a moratorium is exactly in the middle of the range predicted to restrict warming to 2 degrees C. We must do more to keep temperature rises at or below 1.5 degrees, but a ban on new coal mines is an essential first step.
Could 2016 be the year we break free from coal?
Urge leaders to call a moratorium on new mines and join the movement to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.
Leanne Minshull is a Climate and Energy Strategist for Greenpeace International.
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