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November 26, 2012

Doha Climate Conference: Beyond Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy

International climate negotiations kicked off earlier today in Doha, Qatar, where world leaders are talking about the best path forward toward solving the climate crisis. The Sierra Club is also here to push for sensible solutions and provide coverage. Click here for all the latest from Doha. Here is a summary of what we are fighting for: 

Off-Grid Renewable Energy Access:

Off-grid Renewable Energy Technologies (OGRETs) are necessary to reach the goal of universal energy access. They are more cost effective than grid power for more than 60 percent of the unserved or underserved, predominantly Least Developed Country (LDC), population. They are often modular, flexible and more quickly deployed than centralized fossil fuel technologies. They provide opportunity for entrepreneurship and job creation amongst indigenous populations. They mitigate carbon emissions, aid in climate adaptation, and generally improve the capacity of populations through greater opportunities for education, communication and productivity. Moreover, these technologies are aligned with COP mandates to prioritize opportunity for local capacity building and give special consideration for the needs of LDCs.

Reducing Emissions:

Since 2006, the U.S. has seen the largest reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of any country or region, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The report states that, during this time, U.S. CO2 emissions have fallen by 7.7 percent or 430 million metric tons, primarily due to a decrease in coal use. According to analysis by the Vancouver Observer, CO2 emissions from the average American are now at the same levels that they were in 1964. What’s more, these reductions put America on track to meet and even exceed the goal President Obama set in the Copenhagen Accord of decreasing U.S. CO2 emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

Coal Is No Longer Cheap:

Despite what the coal industry would have you believe, the days of cheap, affordable coal fired power are over. Some of the world's largest coal plants on the verge of bankruptcy, and they now face an emerging 'Organization of Coal Exporting Countries' (OCEC) which will only drive prices higher. Over the past decade, in the U.S. and abroad, plant costs have increased by up to 100 percent. Coal prices have trended sharply upward around the world, and worse, the international coal market is highly concentrated. The top two producers alone - Australia and Indonesia - are responsible for roughly 50 percent of all internationally traded steam coal. That leaves new coal plants at the whim of this emerging Organization of Coal Exporting Countries that is increasingly, directly or indirectly, acting to maintain high prices.

Grassroots Victories Against Coal:

The Faustian social contract coal has long enjoyed — cheap power in return for social and environmental degradation — is now broken. At the same time local communities are standing up, fighting back, and defeating plant after plant around the world. As a result, the coal industry's centuries-long dominance is on the verge of collapse. When it falls, it will be because people around the world fought backto protect their health, environments, and livelihoods.

Natural Gas:

"Fracking," a violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations is known to contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes. Natural Gas has a very limited lifespan as a stand-alone fuel given that its combustion emissions are inconsistent with the UNFCCC goal to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that the unconventional natural gas boom could raise gas demand by 50% by 2035, in what it calls a “Golden Age of Gas.” That boom corresponds with an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations that would ultimately push us towards a 3.5 degree Celsius increase in global temperature – enough to push the planet into a disastrously inhospitable climate.  Replacing one fossil fuel with another is a futile investment. 

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