Are the costs of using coal higher than the cost of cleaning it up? WWF, 2007

In 2003, coal overtook oil as the leading contributor to global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), CO2 emissions from energy sources may grow by up to 90% by 2030 and coal will account for 43% of global emissions, unless policy interventions are made (World Energy Outlook 2006, BAU scenario).

This potential increase in global coal use is driven by its increasing use in China, India and Russia for power stations, as well as a fresh rush for coal in OECD countries like the United States and European Union resulting from higher natural gas prices and power plant replacements.

In 2030, under this business-as-usual scenario, the IEA predicts that the top four emitters of carbon dioxide will be:
1. Coal-fired power plants from China
2. Coal-fired plants in the United States
3. Oil for transport in the United States
4. Coal-fired power plants in India (World Energy Outlook 2006)

Coal use is growing around the world and much of this growth is driven by its low cost, the growing demand for electricity, the quest for more diverse energy supply and perceived risk of a` dependence on natural gas, and, finally, the expectation that coal can be made clean enough to not harm the climate.

This briefing explores some of the costs of coal that are often ignored and puts this in the context of the cost the switch to cleaner fuels and a concerted push by governments and industry to advance carbon capture and storage as the future for coal.

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