Coal industry says UN climate chief 'ignoring reality'

It took a few days, but it surely came: the World Coal Association (WCA) has reacted to UN climate chief Christiana Figueres’ call to the industry to stop mining and invest in efficient technologies, saying she is “ignoring reality.”

In an interview with Responding to Climate Change, WCA’s CEO Milton Catelin said Figueres’ lack of expertise in the mining and energy sectors meant she doesn’t get “some of the fundamentals about the energy sector.”

He went onto saying that following her call would be like telling Figueres’ home country —Costa Rica— that is not longer allowed to have access to electricity. “To suggest that you can close all subcritical [coal-fired] plants tomorrow totally ignores reality,” Catelin added.

He said the world simply can’t abandon the black combustible, which generates about 41% of world electricity, especially when studies suggest coal will overtake oil as the main source of energy by 2020.

However, coal miners around the world are being targeted by a mounting number of investors and global organizations. They are concerned with the greenhouse emissions the industry would generate if the nearly $8 trillion of known coal reserves are extracted in the near future.

According to the International Energy Agency, coal combustion generated 43% of all CO2 emissions in 2010, a figure that is expected to gradually rise between now and 2035.

Image by the World Economic Forum