Europe’s political leaders must dramatically ramp up efforts to phase out polluting coal plants if they are serious about preventing dangerous climate change, a new report shows. The study reveals carbon emissions from Europe’s ageing coal-fired power stations will have to come down three times faster than the current rate for the bloc to keep in line with global efforts to limit warming to 2C.
The findings are published as the world’s top climate diplomats are in the thick of negotiations over a new global plan to bring down planet-warming emissions at the UN climate summit in Paris.
Drawing on the most comprehensive database of Europe’s coal plants ever compiled, analysts from Sandbag and Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe have for the first time been able to put a number to the amount of carbon released by the 280 coal-fired power stations currently operating in the EU and its changes over time.
In 2014, Europe’s huge fleet of coal plants released a total of 762 million tonnes of CO2 – as much as the combined emissions of France, Spain and Portugal.  This accounts for nearly a fifth (18%) of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, a slice nearly as big as that of the entire EU road transport sector (21%).
The report, commissioned by Greenpeace UK and CAN Europe, urges Europe’s leaders to get a grip on coal pollution by setting out clear national plans and deadlines to push coal off their energy system.
The UK has recently become the first G20 economy to announce such a plan, with the aim of retiring all of its coal plants by 2025. It was preceded by a similar move in Austria, which is now on track to become coal power free when the last plant closes in 2025. Finland had already committed to phase out coal by the 2020s.
Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Diana Vogtel said: “The verdict from our report is very clear: when it comes to coal emissions there can be no room for complacency. Unless Europe’s leaders take action to phase out the dirtiest fossil fuel, their creaking, polluting coal plants risk derailing the bloc’s efforts to stave off dangerous climate change. The clean technologies that can replace coal are getting cheaper and more efficient every year, whilst the impacts of coal on our health and climate have never been clearer. There are no excuses left for Europe not to kick its coal addiction for good.”
CAN Europe Director Wendel Trio said: “From Alberta in Canada to Finland and the UK, the leaders of advanced economies are already showing that it’s possible to put an expiry date on the age of coal. We now need a strong deal coming out of the Paris summit to give fresh impetus to a EU-wide clampdown on coal emissions. Phasing out coal is the easiest way for the EU to increase its climate ambitions.”
According to leading experts at the International Energy Agency (IEA), Europe’s carbon emissions from burning coal will need to fall on average by 8 per cent every year until 2040 to keep below the 2C warming threshold. But the report published today shows the bloc’s coal emissions have only come down by an average of 2.3 per cent a year over the last nine years.
The study also found that two thirds (66%) of Europe’s coal plants have been in operation for 30 years or more. This makes them particularly inefficient, polluting, and prone to breakdowns.
Coal plants are the world’s biggest emitters of CO2, accounting for nearly a third (31%) of all carbon released by burning fossil fuels, according to the IEA. The IEA have warned that globally coal emissions must halve by 2030 and be almost completely phased out by 2040 if the world is to stand a fighting chance of keeping warming to 2C. Research by University College London also concluded that 88 per cent of global coal reserves must stay in the ground if the world is to stay below the 2C threshold.
7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption
Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?
Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.
New Technologies to Watch
These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:
- Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
- Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
- New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
- Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
- Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
- The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
- Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.
Making the Investment
All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
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