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The exit from coal - Glossary on the climate crisis


If the climate targets are to be met, the world must stop using coal quickly. But what does the coal phase out actually mean and how far are the states with it? The climate term of the week.

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What does coal exit mean?

Coal is still one of the most important energy sources in the modern world.

However, when they are burned, a lot of climate-damaging CO2 is produced.

With the exit from coal, the aim is now to achieve a turnaround towards climate-neutral energy generation.

This means that in future the energy required will largely only be generated by wind, solar or hydropower, and fossil combustion technologies, which emit a lot of climate-damaging CO2, should be abandoned.

There is still a long way to go, however, and not all countries are following the demands of science.

Why is the coal phase-out so important for the climate?

Coal energy is still comparatively cheap, but it is also a problem for the climate, because around 40 percent of global CO2 emissions are due to the generation of electricity and heat, with coal-based power generation accounting for around 30 percent.

According to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), CO2 emissions from burning coal alone are responsible for more than a quarter of the global rise in temperature, which is currently over one degree Celsius.

This makes coal the single largest source of current global warming.

Lignite and hard coal are still the most important energy sources in Germany.

Almost 30 percent of Germany's gross electricity generation comes from these resources, especially from lignite, which is particularly harmful to the climate.

In order to meet the international climate targets, the generation of coal energy must be reduced significantly everywhere.

Calculations based on the IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees assume a necessary global phase-out of coal by 2040 at the latest.

Climate researchers are therefore calling for CO2 emissions to be priced higher overall, so that coal becomes less economical.

But the way there is long.

Germany has been promoting the expansion of renewable energies for a long time, but it has only just decided not to take its last coal blocks off the grid until 2038.

Other industrialized countries are taking a similar, sometimes faster route.

Fifteen countries across Europe intend to get out of coal, but most of them much earlier than the Germans.

Ten are already free of coal-fired electricity, including Austria, Belgium and Sweden.

In the USA, on the other hand, Donald Trump, who was until recently the US President, showed no interest in phasing out coal, even though the USA is the third largest producer of coal-fired electricity in the world after China and India.

However, power generation from coal continued to decline in the US by 15 percent in 2019.

Under the new US President Joe Biden of the Democrats, a turning point in climate policy is emerging.

As a first step, he initiated the return to the Paris climate agreement, from which Trump had previously dropped out.

China, on the other hand, is even planning new coal piles.

Previous week's term: feedback effects

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-01-29

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