Coal emits around twice as much carbon dioxide as gas when used for power generation, and also emits pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and mercury. Last December’s COP21 agreement in Paris to limit global warming to “well below” 2C has put strong pressure on governments to switch to lower-emitting alternatives. There has been a backlash against coal in the business community, notably in banks’ reluctance to finance new coal-fired power projects.
Despite this, pledges by individual countries – such as India – to reduce emissions by cutting the use of coal have been tied to financial help from wealthier countries. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the Paris conference, which outline each country’s intentions for combating climate change, are often vague and contingent. Only a handful mention concrete policies and implementation plans.
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