A new Oxfam report challenges mining industry spin about coal and poverty, showing clearly that coal is not the solution to improving energy access in developing countries.
Powering Up Against Poverty also finds that the Australian Government’s love affair with coal risks putting the country out of step with the rest of the world and harming our economic future, given renewable energy is likely to be the world’s leading source of electricity before 2030.
Oxfam Australia’s climate change policy advisor and report author Dr Simon Bradshaw said that contrary to the aggressive rhetoric of the coal industry, coal was not suited to meeting the needs of most people in the developing world living without electricity.
“Four out of five people without electricity live in rural areas that are often not connected to a centralised energy grid, so local, renewable energy solutions offer a much more affordable, practical and healthy solution than coal,” Dr Bradshaw said.
“The Australian coal industry, faced with the rapid decline in the value of its assets and an accelerating global transition to renewable energy, has been falsely promoting coal as the main solution for increasing energy access and reducing poverty around the world.
“But as well as failing to improve energy access for the world’s poorest people, burning coal contributes to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year due to air pollution and is the single biggest contributor to climate change, pushing people around the world deeper into poverty.”
Dr Bradshaw said Oxfam was seeing the world’s poorest people made even more vulnerable through the increasing risk of droughts, floods, hunger and disease due to climate change. Australia must rapidly phase out coal from its own energy supply and, as a wealthy developed country, do far more to support developing countries with their own renewable energy plans.
The report outlines the changing energy landscape as well as what is working for communities around the world – from solar energy in the Pacific to new ways of powering Africa, China and India.
The report also finds that coal mines are displacing some of the world’s poorest communities, forcing them off their land and leaving them with poor access to food and water and struggling to make a living. An example is the Benga coal mine in Mozambique, associated with Rio Tinto, which displaced thousands of people.
“The argument that ‘coal is good for humanity’ really doesn’t stack up when you consider the facts –such as the major shifts in energy and climate policy in China, India and other major economies; the cost of renewable energy is falling fast; new technologies such as advanced batteries are overcoming any shortfalls renewable energy has had in the past; investors are shifting their focus from coal towards renewables, and the evidence of harm that coal does to communities,” he said.
“The future can be brighter for both Australia and poorer communities around the world – but only if we wake up to the changing global realities, stand up to vested interests and help to build the renewable energy economies of the future.”
Oxfam works with communities around the world to help them adapt to climate change, from helping people in Timor Leste to diversify their crops in order to cope with a changing climate, to supporting communities in Bangladesh to better prepare for disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts.
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