Scientists expose coal industry’s false claims about “high efficiency” coal: No more room for new unabated coal


Warsaw, 18 November 2013. Today, a group of 27 scientists from across the world join forces to address the coal industry’s false claim that ‘high efficiency coal’ is a climate solution. In a joint statement, the scientists explain why new coal without carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) would mean dramatically overshooting the agreed 2°C global warming limit.

The statement is a direct response to the controversial International Coal and Climate Summit, which the World Coal Association hosts in parallel to the UN climate negotiations.

In a joint statement titled New unabated coal is not compatible with keeping global warming below 2°C,27 leading scientists from across the globe rebut the claim that ‘high efficiency coal’ is a low-emissions technology.

In six concise points, the scientists make clear that releasing into the atmosphere the more than 2,000 gigatons of CO2 from known coal reserves would dramatically overshoot the remaining global carbon budget of about 1,000 gigatons CO2. This comes on top of oil and gas reserves accounting for more than 1600 gigatons.

“We are not saying there is no future for coal”, says Professor P.R. Shukla of the Indian Institute of Management, “but that unabated coal combustion is not compatible with staying below the 2°C limit, if we like it or not.”

The false claims about ‘high-efficiency coal’ as a low-emissions technology was made in the recent Warsaw Communiqué, in which the World Coal Association (WCA) calls for “the immediate use of high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustions technologies as an immediate step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”This is likely to be repeated at a controversial two-day coal summit, which the WCA hosts in Warsaw in parallel to the climate change negotiations at COP19.

Dr Bert Metz, former Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group on Climate Change Mitigation says: “New or retrofitted coal plants without CO2 capture and storage will have a life time of 40-50 years. We need to dramatically reduce emissions over the next 40 years. That is not possible with unabated coal.”

Dr Bert Metz adds: “Alternatives to fossil fuels are already available and affordable. It is therefore up to the coal industry to show that coal fired plants with CCS can compete with other zero carbon options.”

The group of scientists welcomes the recent trend among financing institutions and regulatory agencies to rein in unabated coal, but makes clear that more efforts are needed.

Professor William Moomaw of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA says: “The trend of future coal use is changing rapidly. The World Bank, US development assistance and the US Import-Export Bank will no longer finance or support new unabated coal power plants internationally, except in rare cases. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has proposed carbon dioxide emission standards that rule out unabated coal power plants altogether. The European Investment Bank and Scandinavian countries have taken similar steps.”

- ENDS -


Andrew Bradley

Communications Coordinator (Australia)

European Climate Foundation

0403 777 137

Nimali Samarasinha

Media Officer, European Climate Foundation

+32 492 65 74 28


  • Signatories of the statement are:Prof. Ogunlade Davidson, University of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone; Prof. Peter C. Frumhoff, Union of Concerned Scientists, USA; Dr. Niklas Höhne, Ecofys, Germany/The Netherlands;Dr. Jean-Charles Hourcade, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France; Prof. Mark Jaccard, Simon Fraser University Vancouver, Canada; Dr. Jiang Kejun, Energy Research Institute, National Development and Reform Commission, China; Dr. Mikiko Kainuma, National Institute of Environmental Studies, Japan; Prof. Claudia Kemfert, German Institute for Economic Research, Germany; Prof. Emilio La Rovere, COPPE, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Dr. Felix Christian Matthes, Institute for Applied Ecology, Germany; Dr. Michael MacCracken, Climate Institute, USA; Dr. Bert Metz, European Climate Foundation, The Netherlands; Dr. Jose Moreira, Institute of Energy and Environment, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Prof. William Moomaw, The Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA; Prof. Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Technical University of Vienna and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria; Dr. Shuzo Nishioka, National Institute of Environmental Studies, Japan; Keywan Riahi, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria; Dr. Hans-Holger Rogner, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria; Dr. Jayant Sathaye, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, USA; Prof. John Schellnhuber, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany; Dr. Robert N. Schock, Center for Global Security Research, USA; Prof. P.R. Shukla, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India; Prof. Ralph E.H. Sims, Massey University, New Zealand; Prof. Jeffrey Steinfeld, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA; Prof. Wim C. Turkenburg, Copernicus Institute on Sustainable Development, Utrecht University,The Netherlands; Dr Tony Weir, University of the South Pacific, Fiji; Prof. Harald Winkler, Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town, South Africa.