“It is extremely important how we on one hand get out of coal and at the same time do not have negative impacts especially for the emerging world,” Birol said at a virtual event held by Council on Energy, Environment and Water.
“We need some changes in support from the international financial architecture,” he added. “It would not be fair to go to a developing country and say, ‘Your coal is creating a problem of climate change, so shut it down.’”
Birol responded to a question on UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s call on Tuesday for all developing countries to end coal use by 2040.
“Phasing out coal from the electricity sector is the single most important step to get in line with the 1.5 degree goal,” Gueterres said in a video-taped message. “I urge all OECD countries to commit to phasing out coal by 2030, and for non-OECD countries to do so by 2040.”
Birol’s remarks seem to fall in opposition to this proposed deadline. Though Germany has a far smaller coal capacity than India and far higher per capita income, the German government, after lengthy deliberations, has decided to exit coal only by 2038, Birol said.
“China, India, and Indonesia have about half of the world population. In these three countries, more than 60 per cent of the electricity comes from coal,” the IEA chief said.
“These coal plants are very young. In Europe, the average age is 40 years, but in Asia it’s 11 years. So, a lot of investment has been put down. Plus, coal in developing countries is a key source of employment. In India, Coal India and Indian Railways are big sources of employment,” he added.
“We need to support as an international community those countries and communities who would face serious economic challenges as a result of leaving coal behind us,” Birol said. “We need to get out of coal but it is a shared responsibility of all the countries around the world.”
The pressure is building up on governments worldwide to ramp up climate pledges in the run-up to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in November, expected to match the scale of the 2016 Paris Summit.