Business, Economics and Jobs

More coal must stay in the ground to stop climate change, says UN climate chief


Castle Gate Power Plant near Helper, Utah, by David Jolley 2007.

Coal may be the dirtiest source of energy known to humanity, but it's still the most commonly used energy source in the world and continues to grow in popularity — a reality UN climate chief Christiana Figueres spoke out against at the World Coal Summit in Warsaw on Monday. 

Figueres told those gathered in the Polish capital that it was time for the coal industry to begin leaving most of the resource in the ground, while investigating (and investing in) alternative energy sources, according to the Associated Press.

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“Let me be clear from the outset that my joining you today is neither a tacit approval of coal use, nor is it a call for the immediate disappearance of coal,” Figueres said, according to the New York Times. “But I am here to say that coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake.”

She cited business interests in her talk, noting the coal industry should “honestly assess the financial risks of business-as-usual” when it comes to the potential of these emissions speeding along global warming, according to the Irish Times. 

Figueres spoke after figures were released by researchers indicating that global emissions of carbon dioxide are set to rise again in 2013, ending up an estimated 2.1 percent higher than 2012 figures, according to NBC.  

Coal is the dirtiest source of energy, contributing heavily to carbon dioxide emissions and other dangerous environmental destruction — and its dangers have been known since the Industrial Revolution, when burning coal blanketed European cities in smoke.

However, coal is easy to find and is a great engine for economic growth, making it particularly popular in fast moving economies such as China's, where the resource accounted for 68 percent of the nation's energy consumption in 2012, according to the Washington Post.

The US is also a major coal user.