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Former CEO of consumer goods giant Unilever Once told CNBC that it is “disappointing” that the language of the Glasgow Climate Convention on coal has been downplayed, but expressed the hope that it will be strengthened at the COP27 and COP28 summits held in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
At the Adipec Energy Industry Forum in Abu Dhabi last week, Paul Polman addressed CNBC’s Dan Murphy, seemingly philosophical about the agreement reached at COP26. Among them, India and China insist on changing the language of fossil fuels at the last minute-from “phasing out” coal to “gradual decline.”
“It is disappointing that we have to play down the wording of coal to… gradually reduce,” he said, “but I believe the direction is determined again and we will speed up the pace.”
“If this is a compromise during the transition period, hopefully in Egypt or Abu Dhabi, we will phase out it-there is no choice.”
“We have to do this. It would be foolish not to do so,” Polman went on, then pointed the finger at Australia, a country where coal still plays an important role.
“Australia must also be aware of this: 56% of the country’s coal is still unsustainable,” he said. “As one of the countries with the highest per capita emissions in the world, this is unsustainable.”
“It’s naive to let Prime Minister Scott Morrison run around and say that the free market will solve this problem.”
“And I don’t think the rest of the world will let this happen again,” said Polman, co-founder and co-chairman of social enterprise Imagine. “We are all in the same boat: it is called the earth.”
According to data from the Australian government, fossil fuels accounted for 76% of total power generation in 2020, of which coal accounted for 54%, natural gas accounted for 20%, and oil accounted for 2%. In 2019, coal accounted for 56% of Australia’s total electricity generation.
The Australian Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Polman’s remarks.
Last Monday, Morrison was asked whether he agreed that COP26 sounded the death knell for coal. This was a reference to the comments made by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the summit.
“No,” he answered. “I don’t believe this is the case. For all those who work in the industry in Australia, they will continue to work in the industry for decades to come.”
“Because changes will take place over a long period of time, I will not apologize for Australia to safeguard our national interests, whether it is our security interests or our economic interests.”
Morrison told reporters in Australia, “We have a balanced plan to achieve net zero by 2050.”
“But we will not let people in rural and remote areas of Australia pay for this. We will do this in a balanced way, focusing on technological advancements that we know will actually help us solve this problem.”
He said: “We will not tax Australians, we will not legislate, regulate them and force them to do things.”
He said: “I think Australians have had many governments telling them what to do in the past few years, and our way of ensuring economic recovery is not to tell companies what to do, not to tell customers what to do. Do. Our plan is Make sure they can take the lead and let their choices take the lead.”
According to data from the International Energy Agency, the share of coal in global power generation in 2019 was 36.7%.
Although it is still an important source of electricity, coal has a significant impact on the environment, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration lists a series of emissions from coal combustion. These include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulates, and nitrogen oxides.
Elsewhere, Greenpeace describes coal as “the dirtiest and most polluting form of energy production.”
“When it burns, it releases more carbon dioxide than oil or natural gas, so this is a big problem in terms of climate change,” the environmental group added.
“Coal also produces toxic elements such as mercury and arsenic, as well as small soot particles that cause air pollution.”