PerspectiveENERGY

King Coal and the queen of subsidies

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Science  18 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6254, pp. 1286-1287
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0674

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Summary

Coal is the most important energy source for the Chinese economy (see the photo). Other rapidly growing economies in Asia and Africa also increasingly rely on coal to satisfy their growing appetite for energy. This renaissance of coal is expected to continue in the coming years (1) and is one of the reasons that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are increasing despite the undisputed worldwide technological progress and expansion of renewable technologies (2). The implications for long-term GHG emissions are serious because, once installed, a coal power plant will emit for decades. Fossil fuel subsidies support investments in coal capacities around the globe and thereby threaten the achievement of climate change mitigation goals. Targeted reform of these subsidies could yield benefits for climate change mitigation as well as other development objectives.

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