Straterra’s position on climate change and coal

The burning of fossil fuels is driving climate change. All of us – collectively, globally, including the coal industry – face the challenge of reducing CO2 emissions to stabilise average surface temperatures, as agreed by 195 countries (including New Zealand) in Paris in late 2015.

That’s the problem definition. How to do this is the hard part.

Fossil fuels currently provide 78% of global primary energy. Fossil fuels, including coal, remain the fuel of choice for many developed countries, and for developing countries where priorities are clearly aimed at raising standards of living rather than environmental cost.

Straterra, the industry association representing New Zealand’s minerals and mining sector, has created Let’s Talk About Coal to contribute to an informed debate on how we respond to climate change by reducing the effects of fossil fuel use in New Zealand, and globally.

Current trends and widely accepted predictions see coal use increasing globally, in absolute terms, as the world’s population, economies and output grow.

Progress is being made but, globally, we need to advance current and new technologies such as solar, battery, nuclear, carbon capture and storage to achieve the emissions reductions required that lead to substantially decarbonising the global economy. This will take many decades, given current trends, investment, and the life cycles of power plants and industrial facilities.

For the coal sector, new coal infrastructure for electricity generation and steel manufacture must use the best available technology, and the continued development and implementation of carbon capture and storage technologies is a vital contribution to global efforts to reduce emissions.

For New Zealand, we need to understand the costs and trade-offs of what we do, and benchmark global progress, so we make well-informed decisions – decisions that ensure we do our share, but don’t cost investment and jobs for no benefit.

New Zealand’s low electricity generation carbon footprint gives us a real advantage now over almost every other country – hydro, geothermal and wind.

Options open to New Zealand include:

  • Encouraging electric vehicles
  • Improving energy efficiency generally
  • Increasing renewable electricity generation
  • Planting more trees
  • Commercialising biomass at scale for industrial process heat
  • Offsetting our emissions in international carbon markets (which will first need to be created)

A well-considered EV strategy can play an important role in our response; EECA is driving progress in efficiency; and we already have more renewable electricity generation consented than we need in the short term. 

Many small actions are needed to achieve real change. And every organisation and industry – including the coal industry – needs to do its bit.

Straterra welcomes transparent and informed debate on these issues, and trusts that this resource contributes to this outcome.

Let’s talk about coal. 

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