Trump’s coal punt unpopular and in vain

Intro

The majority of Americans want to see action on coal plant emissions, but despite this popular sentiment President Trump is planning to dismantling the Clean Power Plan, announcing this week he will try to “save the coal industry” through a series of government regulations. However, fresh data revealed this week suggests his efforts may be in vain – the number of planned coal plants have halved in a year, as renewable energy takes over, and many analysts point out that nothing Trump can do will save the ailing coal industry.

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Key Points

  • Public opinion and the free market is killing coal – there is very little that laggard governments can do to change this reality. Research by the Yale Climate Change Communications Center shows that 69 percent of Americans support strict curbs on emissions from coal-fired power plants and 82 percent support research into renewables. The Trump administration risks getting left behind – a new report shows that globally, the coal industry is in freefall, with plant pre-construction planning dropping by nearly half compared with 2015, and new construction falling even further;  India and China are leading the way in the slowdown. In the US, many are saying that coal job prospects are weak, and it’s unlikely they’ll ever come back.  
  • Accelerating actions to quit coal and harness renewables, in line with the Paris Agreement, will create wealth and reduce risks. Decarbonising the economy in line with the international agreement on climate change could generate a massive $19 trillion for the global economy, according to a new report commissioned by German government that was delivered by the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency. Globally, energy-related fossil fuel emissions could be cut by 70 percent by 2050 and altogether ten years later, the report said, to avoid massive costs from climate impacts. On the flip side, trillions in oil and gas assets are at risk of being stranded if climate action is delayed.
  • Reality tends to cut through political posturing – climate change impacts are biting so we need to quit coal to reduce the impacts as fast as possible. The Arctic is melting faster than ever, hitting a record winter low this week, and climate impacts in 2016 show another year of broken records, says the World Meteorological (WMO)’s latest State of the Climate report, which says last year was the warmest on record.  The report doesn’t include newer studies such as one out last week saying the oceans recorded 13 percent more heat than previously estimated.  In February this year, in the U.S.A. alone, 11,743 warm temperature records were broken or tied.

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KEY QUOTES

  • “Critically, the economic case for the energy transition has never been stronger. Today around the world, new renewable power plants are being built that will generate electricity for less cost than fossil-fuel power plants. And through 2050, the decarbonisation can fuel sustainable economic growth and create more new jobs in renewables. We are in a good position to transform the global energy system but success will depend on urgent action, as delays will raise the costs of decarbonisation” – IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.
  • “Coal’s demise is inevitable – there is no point waiting until the bitter end. We need to phase out coal at speed. Countries must get ahead of the game and put their phaseout ambitions into law. Governments should implement strict policies to retire their oldest and dirtiest coal plants first, and ensure appropriate support for workers moving on from the coal industry.”  – Chief Executive of environmental lawyers group ClientEarth, James Thornton.
  • “As we speak we are preparing new executive actions to save our coal industry and to save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work. The miners are coming back” – US President Donald Trump.
  • “Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory” – World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson.