On COP21, “slave-traders” and press independence

Brussels, Sat 19/12/2015 17:18 (corrected Thu 28/01/2016 21:55 to clarify partnership between 350.org and Guardian)

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Click to download EURACOAL report on how a more realistic EU climate policy can deliver considerable emission reductions at a lower cost, allow economic growth and provide security of energy supply.

After reading all 1,001 comments made by Guardian readers in response to “Coal lobby boss says industry ‘will be hated like slave-traders’ after COP21” (Arthur Neslen, UK Guardian, 15 December 2015), I have selected the best and republish them below. They offer a rich source of ideas and views on coal, both for and against: clever ones, insightful ones and funny ones. They will influence EURACOAL. The sweetest one sits at the very end, from OrganicPeaBrain. Vitriolic comments were thankfully few in number. I’m sure that many respectable people stand behind their shields of online anonymity, but they should remember that those shields are really only paper thin to the eyes of GCHQ.

We have published the EURACOAL members’ briefing that Arthur Neslen quotes, so that his juicy bits can be seen in their proper context. While we do question the future potential of renewables, EURACOAL has no view on climate science. However, it is fair to say that many in the coal industry are climate sceptics. Skilled miners, well-educated mining engineers and professional geologists have a unique perception; they work with materials that were laid down hundreds of millions of years ago and have a better appreciation than most people of the great planetary changes that have taken place over time. Convincing them is the test of climate scientists.

On climate action, I would go for economic options; as OscarAwesome states below, “The morality follows the economics.” So, we need cheap alternatives to coal. If we have to rely on public support for renewables, then there will be no “energy transition”, just lost jobs. It is easy to destroy things, very easy. Building stable societies is much harder. EURACOAL will continue to say what we think and I sincerely hope that others around the world will be free to do the same.

To that end, an independent media with keen investigative journalists is hugely important in any democratic society. So, it was good to see the Guardian publish the story that needed to be published on how the UN pushed through the Paris Agreement in a way that lacked democratic legitimacy: John Vidal’s article explains this far better than I did in my members’ briefing.

Like all newspapers, the Guardian has had to find a new business model in a world where we expect online content to be free.  The Guardian’s “keep it in the ground” campaign is run in partnership with a US-based organisation called 350.org, founded by Bill McKibben. It’s hard to judge his editorial influence, beyond his insightful and often inciting opinion pieces, e.g. on 13 December when he wrote in the Guardian of a “pack of wolves” at Exxon’s heels and called for illegal action at the “world’s carbon bombs”. Dangerous words, but permissible in the UK’s free press.

The coal industry is portrayed as a bunch of rent-seeking capitalists and, yes, I laughed at the “Australian Coal Mining Company” video on YouTube. In Europe, most coal mining is carried out by state-owned companies, companies such as Kompania Węglowa in Poland. I was there recently to celebrate St. Barbara’s Day, the patron saint of miners (Wizzair €8 flight from Charleroi, no carbon offset). I drank too much vodka with miners who work harder than I ever have to produce the coal that powers the Polish economy. They are good, decent men and women. Like me, they are wage slaves, not capitalists.

Brian Ricketts, Secretary General

Selected comments in response to “Coal lobby boss says industry ‘will be hated like slave-traders’ after COP21” by Arthur Neslen (UK Guardian, 15 December 2015)

red = pro coal
green = anti coal (obviously)
bold = interesting

Continue reading On COP21, “slave-traders” and press independence

EU 2030 targets: why COP21 means less can be more…

Please see at this link our brochure arguing for a more realistic EU climate policy that can deliver a better environment, growth and jobs. Our COP21 report to EURACOAL members has been quoted by some media organisations. It was a mistake to share it. For those interested, the report is available here.

It is not easy to explain why “less can be more”. However, in the case of EU climate and energy policy, the truth is that a less ambitious policy – some might say a more realistic policy – would deliver greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions at a much lower cost than a policy which favours targets that are unaffordable and therefore unrealistic.

It has now become obvious that the fast expansion of solar PV in Germany from 2009 to 2013 gave the illusion of a prosperous solar industry, an illusion that has since faded. The party is over and now there is a hangover: many companies have gone bankrupt and jobs have been lost. The solar boom leaves a debt to be paid by German consumers over the next 20 years of €100 to €200 billion. Given that the prices for PV installations have fallen in recent years, it seems that less ambition would have delivered more. Technologies and the timing of their introduction are key questions. Economics is perhaps the single most important driver in today’s world. People generally want as much as possible for their money (“more for less”) and the control of GHG emissions should not be seen as being any different.

This paper explores why a more progressive policy on power plant modernisation and renewal could deliver emission reductions at a lower cost to society, demonstrate global leadership and, crucially, avoid the risk of an over-dependence on imported natural gas which appears to be the default option for future power generation in many Member States without providing a reliable solution.

Patron saint’s day celebrated by coal miners, amidst COP21 negotiations

Miners all over the world commemorate on the 4th of December their patron saint, St Barbara, requesting her continuing protection for their daily work.

Mining traditions for this day span back for hundreds of years, including wearing the miners’ uniform, employee anniversaries and awards, retirement ceremonies, family trips to the mines and many other social events.

Although mining is one of the most essential of human activities, one scarcely considers the raw materials needed to power and produce the products and services that we use in our every-day lives. A weekend protesting against coal might seem morally right to some, even fun. Then, they fly back to their warm homes, without a second thought for those millions of coal miners who quietly, but tirelessly provide the energy that we all take for granted.

A pathway to clear, low emission coal use

EURACOAL, the European Association for Coal and Lignite, is supporting the World Coal Association’s workshop and conference “A pathway to clear, low emission coal use”, organised in Brussels from 9:00 to 16:15 on 17 November.

 

WCA Workshop November 2015 v2

Vladimír Budinsky, Vice President of EURACOAL and Vice Chairman of the Board at ČEZ Distribuce, previously Board Member responsible for strategy and communications at Severoceske doly a.s., a Czech lignite mining company also in the ČEZ Group, will moderate the afternoon technology session.

For the full programme please follow the link.

Report on the funding of anti-coal campaigns by NGOs

The European Association for Coal and Lignite (EURACOAL) released a report on the funding of anti-coal campaigns by NGOs. It finds that a wave of money is flooding into the EU policy space from a small number of super-rich donors, many from the US, who hope to influence EU climate and energy policy in favour of their own preferred solutions, whatever the cost to European consumers. This is a story about money and power; a story in which Europe is viewed as a “laboratory for the world”.

Please see the full press release at the following link. Full report at  this link.

11th Coal Dialogue puts LCP BREF in the limelight

The 11th EC-EURACOAL Coal Dialogue examined the future role of coal in Europe and current challenges with Klaus-Dieter Borchardt, Director in DG Energy for the Internal Energy Market, Marianne Wenning, Director in DG Environment for Quality of Life, Water and Air, and Céline Gauer, Director in DG Competition for Markets and Cases concerning energy and environment.

Simon-Lewis, Director at the White Rose CCS project which is the preferred bidder in the UK’s £1 billion CCS commercialisation programme, argued in favour of CCS to ensure UK energy security while keeping energy-intensive industries in the country.

Hans ten Berge, Secretary General of EURELECTRIC, warned that the LCP BREF review process had turned into a “coal bashing” exercise, not in response to any real risk from air pollution, but to reduce GHG emissions, whatever the cost. He called for the Commission to take a holistic approach when proposing amendments to the IED BAT conclusions, reflecting a true cost-benefit analysis.

In his conclusions, the Secretary-General of EURACOAL said that the choice is now clear: either we are realistic and accept that it is sensible to invest in coal during the energy transition, or we fail and run old assets for longer, consuming more fuel and emitting more CO2.

The Head of Unit dealing with Retail Markets: Coal and Oil at DG Energy, Jan Panek, concluded by acknowledging the role of coal as the quiet, reliable fuel that will likely be in any future energy mix due to its advantages of affordability, security of supply and reliability.

To read the full report please follow the link.

Coal Round takes off in the 8th European Parliament

Dr. Christian EHLER MEP and Prof. Jerzy BUZEK MEP hosted the first European Round Table on Coal of the new Parliament. MEPs from across the Union came along to better understand coal and the contribution it makes to a secure and reliable energy supply: 28% of the EU’s electricity is produced from coal.

Prof. BUZEK expressed his pleasure to be once again working with the coal industry. He reflected that when he entered the European Parliament in 2004, his first assignment in Brussels outside of the Parliament was a European Commission meeting with EURACOAL.

Prof. Klaus-Dieter BORCHARDT gave the keynote address, touching on many of the major issues facing the energy sector, as viewed from his position in the European Commission where he is Director – Internal Energy Market. The idiom that “coal is a fuel of the past” is false, he said, “coal is back” with a leading share in power generation, a share that is growing.

Dr. EHLER concluded the meeting with some positive points. He welcomed Prof. BORCHARDT’s willingness to work on a “Master Plan for Coal” with the active input of industry.

Please follow the link for the full press release.

Coal Round meets to discuss Energy Union

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Speakers Brendan DEVLIN, Marek GRÓBARCZYK, Jerzy BUZEK and Christian EHLER

Mr. Marek GRÓBARCZYK MEP, rapporteur for the Energy Union dossier and Mr. Brendan DEVLIN, Advisor in DG Energy, joined Prof. Jerzy BUZEK MEP and Dr. Christian EHLER MEP, co-chairs of the 25th Coal Round.

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Dr SCHMITZ putting forward industry’s arguments

Prof. BUZEK remarked that “low emissions”, not “decarbonisation”, was the objective for the energy sector. Dr EHLER expressed his concern that the European Commission failed to address coal use in its Energy Union communication.

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Participants at the Coal Round

Rapporteur GRÓBARCZYK believed that Energy Union should be supported by three pillars: conventional and unconventional sources, nuclear and renewables in a mix that keeps prices under control. He concluded by offering his support to coal and for keeping coal in the European energy mix.

Minutes

EURACOAL position paper on proposed amendments for European energy security strategy

The widespread modernisation of Europe’s coal-fired power plants offers a low-cost route to greenhouse gas emission reductions through improved efficiency. Other co-benefits include cleaner plants with lower emissions of conventional pollutants. Perhaps one of the most important benefits that comes from the modernisation of coal-fired power plants is the avoidance of a further “dash for gas” that would be neither affordable nor strategically desirable. Energy supply is closely entwined with current global tensions and the EU needs to think carefully about how it invests for the future.

Please see at the following link the amendments suggested to the European Parliament by EURACOAL for the European Energy Security Strategy.

EURACOAL elects new President and Vice Presidents

The European Association for Coal and Lignite (EURACOAL) today elected Dr. Zygmunt Łukaszczyk as its new President. He succeeds Mr. Paweł Smoleń who is now a partner responsible for energy and resources at Deloitte Business Consulting S.A. Dr. Łukaszczyk, a Polish national and Chairman of the Board at Katowicki Holding Węglowy S.A. (KHW), brings his extensive experience of the coal industry and policy issues to the Association which is the “voice of coal” in Europe.

Prof. Franz-Josef Wodopia, representing the German hard coal sector, and Mr. Nigel Yaxley, representing UK coal importers, were both re-elected as Vice Presidents and are joined by newly elected Mr. Vladimír Budinský, representing the Czech Association of Employers in Mining Industry (ZSDNP).

Please click on the following link to see the full press release.

Coal: fuel for the 21st century

Exploiting natural resources creates jobs and adds to economic wealth. It always has and always will. In the EU, the most abundant energy resource is coal. In these times of austerity and high unemployment, the EU can look forward to a future fuelled by coal, not dirty old coal of the past, but with modern clean coal technologies fit for the 21st century and in use today in Europe.

Please download the full publication at the following link.

International Coal Dialogue “Quo vadis Ukraine?”

The aim of the International Coal Dialogue was to explore with EURACOAL member DTEK what steps Ukraine is taking to secure its coal supply. The meeting was organised in co-operation with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), specifically with the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI).

Until now, Ukraine has been self-sufficient in coal. In 2013, the country produced over 60 million tonnes and production was maintained during the first half of 2014. However, since June 2014, coal output has been decimated by separatist fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Production from 66 coal mines has been lost, with just 60 left in production today. MEP Andrej Plenković, Chair of the EU-Ukraine Delegation, lived through war in Croatia and warned of the destructive consequence if the Minsk ceasefire was not respected. He called on the European Commission to consolidate the peace process.

A particularly serious problem highlighted at the meeting was the sourcing of anthracite on the international market. High-quality local anthracite is used at around half of Ukraine’s thermal power plants. Germany is a producer, but there are few others – Russia being the biggest outside of China. However, the maximum monthly supply from Russia is perhaps 700-750 thousand tonnes – not enough to replace the two million tonnes lost.

Please see the full report and presentations at the following link.