First Rule of Holes: When You’re in One, Stop Digging

Now that the Paris Agreement has been signed by 193 parties and ratified by over 100, one message is very clear: the era of fossil fuels is over. But it seems that not everyone has gotten the message. In many countries, the coal lobby stubbornly believes it can delay the inevitable.

Let’s take Brazil as an example. Brazil likes to boast about being a climate champion. But its Congress just approved a billion-dollar subsidy to the coal industry. Equally problematic, this comes at a time when coal represents less than 5% of electricity generation in Brazil, but over 20% of emissions. Has anyone in the Brazilian Congress done the maths?

The coal industry spends a fortune on lobbying. But President Temer now has the chance to veto this subsidy, as tens of thousands of Brazilians have urged him to do. The world is watching closely, and expects meaningful action from a country that could otherwise be one of the first to reach 100% renewables.

But it’s not only Brazil where coal still dreams of a future. Forbes Magazine recently described Japan as having a “renewed love affair with coal”, with over 40 new plants being built, planned or proposed before 2020. If implemented, this would be a nightmare for the climate.

Perhaps even worse, Tokyo’s renewed love for coal isn’t confined to home. As the world’s biggest contributor of public financing for coal projects, Japan invested over $22 billion overseas from 2007 to 2015, including funding for several proposed coal projects in–wait for it–Brazil. It’s high time for Japan to stop sleepwalking, catch up with the times and stop funding the dirty fossils of the past, both at home and abroad.

Turkey’s situation is nearly as sickening. The country won COP22’s inaugural Fossil of the Day award yesterday, in part for its absurd plans to build 70 new coal power plants that would add over 70 GW of dirty energy capacity. Just writing that sentence makes ECO nauseous. No matter how you cut it, this blatant denial of physics is bad, bad medicine for an ailing climate. If Turkey wants to be taken seriously, it needs to take some remedial lessons and get back on track for renewables. The coal financiers investing there and in the Balkan region are big players: largely Chinese money channelled through different development banks.

All around the world, the coal industry is desperately attempting to defy the laws of physics. It wants us to believe that when you’re in a hole, if you keep digging you just might get out. Thankfully, ECO had an excellent physics professor and has sounder advice: when you’re in a hole, stop digging. One thing is certain–if we are to deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement, every country must show more ambition when it comes to emission reductions. Getting rid of dirty coal would be a great place to start.