Former UN Climate Chief: Coal is Essential

"Yvo de Boer" by Original uploader was Custodiet ipsos custodes at en.wikipedia(Original text : Ng Swan Ti/Oxfam International) - Transferred from en.wikipedia(Original text : Secretary of UNFCCC Yvo De Boer on Oxfam's Flickr account). Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Yvo de Boer” by Original uploader was Custodiet ipsos custodes at en.wikipedia(Original text : Ng Swan Ti/Oxfam International) – Transferred from en.wikipedia(Original text : Secretary of UNFCCC Yvo De Boer on Oxfam’s Flickr account). Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t DailyCaller – Former UN climate chief Yvo de Boer has defended the use of climate finance to fund the construction of coal generators – a position which reportedly puts de Boer at odds with his successor, Christiana Figueres.

According to de Boer;

Coal will be a “necessary part of the energy mix for decades to come,” de Boer said on the sidelines of a sustainable cities conference in Seoul.

The polluting but cheap fuel is a “logical choice” for emerging economies like India, China and South Africa.

“You really have to be able to offer these countries an economically viable alternative, before you begin to rule out coal,” he said.

Read more: http://www.rtcc.org/2015/04/11/former-un-climate-chief-yvo-de-boer-defends-coal-finance/

De Boer is a green, a strong supporter of carbon pricing. But his position makes a lot more sense, than the position of greens who refuse to consider coal, under any circumstances.

In the absence of viable alternatives, coal generators will be constructed. Nobody can stop this. The desire of poor people to give their children a better, more industrialised future is irrepressible. The most that greens can hope to do, given the current available technology options, is to help countries intent on building coal generators to use the most advanced technology available.

Converting a coal generator to use supercritical steam technology improves efficiency by 15% – a potentially colossal reduction in CO2 emissions, if this technology was deployed worldwide. But building a supercritical generator is expensive, it involves reliably containing pressures in excess of 3200 PSI – which in turn requires access to the best technology available.

If you are someone who is concerned about CO2 emissions, the goal is surely to keep emissions to a minimum – even if that sometimes means embracing advanced coal technology.

The following is a video of de Boer defending the use of coal, to alleviate poverty.

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73 thoughts on “Former UN Climate Chief: Coal is Essential

  1. I would think that all the greens world wide would be a lot more vocal about having fewer children to reduce poverty.

    • This is well worth a look if you can spare an hour sometime. we produce enough food in the world on less land than in the past, to feed around 9 billion people. The issue is one of distribution, not production. It has been estimated that the Earth can support around 10 Billion people overall.

      Hope the link works.

      • Half the food produced in Africa is lost to pests. Half the food available in the USA is tossed. The problem is not food – we are still paying people not to grow more food or actively preventing over-production (milk marketing boards, for example).
        What is needed is far more energy and that can only come long term from nuclear sources.
        And what, Mr De Boer (Mr Farmer) is a ‘climate person’? Am I a climate person? Who isn’t a climate person? Are there unclimate people who don’t have one?
        What is a climate realist to do?

      • Yeah, three years ago I read an African doctor with the World Bank who said they lose 45% of food because of ineffective storage facilities. Why can’t they build Ultra-Super Critical Coal-Powered plants or thorium reactors, and use part of that electricity to maintain sealed and cooled food storage facilities?

      • As someone in the agricultural industry, I can say, without question, we are nowhere near “Peak Food”. And no, it doesn’t mean we have to destroy more rain forest to attain it.
        Between S America and Africa alone we could put 10-20 million more acres into production, if needed, over the next 10 years. That includes row crop, animal, and aquaculture. Again, if needed and we foresee real crisis, it’s easily doable and sustainable.
        We simply need to apply better technology, what we’re presently doing in the west, to the 2nd and 3rd world.
        Just read up on what Israel is doing in their agricultural sector, with very marginal land. It’s remarkable.
        And we still haven’t scratched the surface on ocean farming.

      • That’s 10 billion using existing technology. New technology already being developed will increase that number.

      • “Crispin in Waterloo
        April 15, 2015 at 9:15 am
        Half the food produced in Africa is lost to pests.”
        Not only pests, humans too. I have personally seen vast volumes of food being tossed in the bin in Africa. The UK, it is esitmated that up to %40 is literally throwing the bin. But that is not only the food itself, it’s fertiliser, fuel, energy etc etc, %40 of that is also wasted. Sacel that up to the size of the EU zone, and you have a big problem with waste. Now this may be “ugly” fruit and veg that supermarkets won’t buy. Or “best buy/use buy” dates have just expired. Either way the food is perfectly OK for human consumption.

      • We will probably never reach a population of 10 billion. Look up the fertility rate charts produced by the UN, CIA, or World Bank. They all show the same thing. The fertility rates in most countries, except for the African continent, are below that required to sustain their populations. The U.S. rate is 2.0, while 2.1 is needed to sustain. The average is 1.5 for Europe. I read a paper, recently, that states that the population of the world will peak around 2045 to 2055 and then begin a rapid fall off to possibly 2 billion in 2100. Sorry that I lost the link or I would post it here. The fertility rates tell the story, tho. This assumes that there are no great climate changes or catastrophes, obviously.

    • Birth rates fall after incomes rise. It cannot be done in the opposite order, or at least it never has been.

      • Patrick, cheap hydrocarbon energy is a prerequisite of Mechanisation of agriculture, so you can arguably say that the worlds carrying capacity depends only on the availability of sufficiently cheap Energy.

    • There is no evidence that having fewer children reduces poverty.
      In every case on record, countries got rich, then birth rates fell. Not the other way around.

      • Mark W, that 10 billion # can be EASILY reached using today’s tech in the 2nd and 3rd world, without even increasing acreage that much. New irrigation methods and new plant varieties, even on marginal land, give amazing and sustainable results. It’s been proven for years.
        And be careful of those 2 legged pests. They bite.

    • To reduce birth rate reduce child mortality rate and increase development, by improvements to education, health care and provision of pottable water and cheap electricity.

  2. It seems like he is coming to his senses.How long ago did he leave the UN? Perhaps we can calculate the half-life of stupidity.

    • A person the other day wrote: You can’t fix stupid.
      Maybe those with that problem just die off.
      Something similar to the Darwin Award is needed for them.
      Title should be nice sounding, of course.

    • Actually, he contradicts himself. On one hand he says the poor need coal to solve poverty because coal is cheap, then 5:30 in he says that the solution to coal is to raise the price, calling politicians cowardly in the process for not agreeing to put a price on carbon.
      You can’t have it both ways. Coal has more carbon than any other energy source. A price on carbon hits coal the hardest, which in turn hurts the very countries he says need coal to solve poverty.
      Since the poorest countries are those most likely to benefit from coal, a price on carbon will hurt the poorest countries most of all. Those countries least likely to be able to pay the carbon price will be saddled with the lions share of the cost.
      Those countries that have already industrialized using coal, and are now in a position like the US and EU, to switch to natural gas, these countries will pay the least. It shows the hypocrisy of the industrial world.
      Having been the biggest polluters for 150 years, with economies in large part bought and paid for using coal, these same industrialized countries now want to put a price on carbon, raising the price of coal most of all. And who will pay the cost of this carbon price? Those least able to afford it, the poorest of the poor in the developing world.
      The US and EU should hang their heads in shame.

      • A number of the poor countries in Africa have their own coal, so they wouldn’t be affected by any price-raising international agreements promulgated by the world’s more enlightened countries and institutions.
        Financing the capital cost is a problem, though. I believe the World Bank isn’t funding any coal generation as policy, which forces developing countries to go the cheapest route to coal, not the cleanest.

      • It hardly matters what the US or EU do or say about coal. India, China, and a host of other countries are building coal-fired electric generating plants at an increasing rate. Even Germany and much of Eastern Europe have plans to build coal-fired plants.
        Now China and some other partners have started their own version of the World Bank and they do intend to loan money to build coal -fired electric generating plants. We Westerners are being butt-stupid about this.

  3. Thus we divide the world into two kinds of people: those who believe that the billions of still-destitute people in the world should have a say in their own survival and eventual prosperity, and those who don’t. Dear ‘those-who-don’t’: Please show me some administrative success in your own lives before ruling the world’s. Entropy seems to be a problem for the greens as their nirvana societal dreams and reality continue to diverge. God on de Boer, as reality will out.

  4. When I was a little girl we had a coal-burning stove in the living room! Dad used to shovel the ashes into a bucket and when cool, put them on our lilac shrub, which flourished. I believe that with…how many billions of people now on earth?… coal IS essential and will be until the earth’s population declines considerably.

  5. Yvo de Boer says: “There are countries, some very big countries like China, like India, like South Africa, where there are massive challenges in terms of poverty eradication, where coal is a logical choice from a cost effectiveness point of view, and you really have to be in a position to offer those countries an economically viable alternative before you start to rule out coal, I think.”
    Well now, how about that? Meanwhile here in South Africa itself, our carbon-obsessed government seems hell-bent on introducing a carbon tax, which will simply add to our “massive challenges in terms of poverty eradication”. We are currently (once again) witnessing shameful and violent attacks by South Africans on foreign nationals from other African states, fueled by inflammatory statements by some of our so-called leaders, and the sense that these foreigners are taking jobs from locals. How government can even contemplate a ‘carbon tax’, when people experiencing real poverty turn savagely on others who are perceived to be part of the problem, seems inconceivable.
    But our Yvo shows that he has not actually changed his spots, by talking about ‘carbon’ and ‘carbon pricing’, about the mythological and illogical two degree tipping point, about a 95% chance of a successful outcome to the forthcoming talks in Paris, and he also hints darkly at what might happen to Japan when the world really ‘starts getting tough on climate change’. This last remark is in response to Japan building some new coal-fired power stations. Should Germany be worried about this tough talk too?.

    • Viva, John Ledger, viva!
      It is extraordinary that RSA has allocated ZAR100 billion (roughly $10 bn) for ‘renewables’ being 100% imported German and Chinese technologies with all the usual promises of ‘green jobs’, a European phrase meaning ‘no real jobs for you lot’.
      And what exactly is this ‘world’ that will start ‘getting tough on Japan’? Is it the ‘world’ that consists of five guys like de Boer who have grabbed the levers of power and economy? No doubt they are on a missions to save us all from ourselves. Don’t you just love the self-righteous? They mean so well!
      With South Africa burning their multi-thousand-year supply of coal to provide the peasantry with a job, a small house and 50 free KWH each month I guess that will eventually need to be ‘addressed’ by ‘the world’ as well, no doubt with externally applied reasons, sanctions and force if necessary. You know how it is with ‘some people’.
      If there was ever anything that Africa really had experience with, it was the colonisation of industries, minds, economies and agriculture for the benefit of those ‘moral leaders’ – the self-appointed, self-satisfied, self-righteous Europeans returning once again to save the ecological souls of the African natives from their dark and wicked carbonaceous ways.
      John, you missed the IPEEC Representative at the DUE Conf in Cape Town on the 1st. He showed some of the worst CAGW slides I have seen, including the worst-of-all-time cartoon of the greenhouse effect – that ‘layer’ in the atmosphere that is getting ‘thicker’ like a sheet of glass in a car window. I am not kidding. He really said that. The Nutty Prof eventually called him out from the front bench to which there was no reply. We endured several sessions of Euro-Alarmism and ideas about Eco-Colonisation where hard-won independence gives way to extortionate lackey-dom.
      I asked the Department of Trade and Industry rep if he would protect us from the light bulb cartel that screwed not lightbulbs, but the whole planet for many decades, creating bulbs designed, nay guaranteed, to burn out before 1000 hours (signed in 1926) instead of the 1925 average of 2500 hours. I pointed out that the CFLs and LEDs were expensive according to the producers so needed big subsidies. I wanted to know if DTI was going to protect us from illegal international cartels that jacked up prices and reduced bulb lifetimes by agreement behind the scenes with fines for deviants, as happened from 1926-1995-ish.
      He said, “Yes.” Hold him to it.

      • Crispin, from Waterloo to Mongolia to Swaziland you are an elusive global migratory species; sorry to have missed you during your recent visit. The South African ‘green economy’ keeps on rollin’ here, and it is actually the fellows from Spain who are having a good time here building CSP plants in the sun-drenched northern Cape Province. I attended the opening of KaXu Solar One (ZAR 8 billion for 100MW – parabolic trough), Xina Solar One will now start construction right next door (another ZAR 8 billion for another 100MW – parabolic trough) and our chartered plane flew over !Khi Solar One (around ZAR 4.2 billion for 50MW – central tower) not far from Upington.
        Incidentally, the view from the sky of the Gariep River in every direction around Upington is a broad network of green irrigated crops running through an arid desert, as far as the eye can see. Go take a look on Google Earth. They export ten thousand tons of grapes by air from here to Europe every year. This must be one of the biggest carbon dioxide sequestration plants build by man in Africa! I keep thinking about Willis Eschenbach’s post here on WUWT about his analysis of the early results from the Ibuku CO2 sniffing satellite – this is an iconic gem from Willis, waiting to be polished some more!
        Why is the South African government so obsessed with ‘carbon’? Well, it is a lot better than worrying about population, poverty, crime, land degradation, decline of fisheries, running out of fresh water, xenophobia, or tearing down statues of naughty European colonists like Cecil John Rhodes.
        Besides, if you could successfully arrange for taxpayers to send 80 official delegates from South Africa to attend last year’s climate-squawk in Lima, Peru, just think how many more you can squeeze into those Air France Airbus 380s that will be climbing out of Joburg every day, bound for Paris and the climate mega-squawk in December, and some serious shopping – in between saving the planet, of course?
        Sure beats worrying about all those poor folks back home!

  6. The polluting but cheap fuel is a “logical choice” for …
    The logical choice for the funding would be to go heavy on the clean-controls part of the mining and burning of coal. Do a search – coal mine India – using the Image Tab. I don’t want to imply this only a problem in India. I grew up in western Pennsylvania when coal mining was only slightly better. Note the photos of a woman carrying coal on her head through a smoke-filled pit. Such is not good. The ‘one starfish’ story might apply.
    http://www.all-creatures.org/stories/starfish.html

  7. Intellectual honesty will always be the best of all traits when dealing with people with whom you may have fundamental disagreements. It’s refreshing to a reality based assessment from someone who is aligned with an often fanatical faction.

  8. A couple of weeks ago some friends were visiting with their 18 year old son and his 17 year old girlfriend. I was shocked at how bright, friendly, helpful, polite, and engaging the kids were. It was a real treat, and I’m still smiling from it.
    But one aspect that horrified me was that these awesome kids have been absolutely brainwashed that Nature is groaning under every new birth, that everything is dying, that everything is polluted, that a climate catastrophe is just around the corner, that people don’t care, AND … that we need to drastically depopulate the entire globe as quickly as possible, by whatever means, or the planet (not man — the planet) is doomed.
    Some of the things they said made me think that they’d have no qualms in agreeing to exterminate people if it were done in other countries’ back yards.
    Scary.

    • “Some of the things they said made me think that they’d have no qualms in agreeing to exterminate people if it were done in other countries’ back yards.
      I, for one, welcome our new One-World Overlords who have the foresight to mold a generation or two to blindly do their bidding without hesitation. /practicing to be a boot licking toady

    • They’ll grow out of it.
      Otherwise, my experiences with my teenager and his friends are similar to yours.

      • Max, the opportunities I’m given to spend time around those kids is a treasure. They’re in college, now and as bright and engaging as anyone might hope they’d be and they all seem to operate from a place of wanting to right all the wrongs and save the world,. They obviously are learning to think for themselves and love to discuss the world as they see it. I’ll challenge them over their preconceived (and too often, subtly propagandized) ideas and the room will brighten with the lights of their intellects jumping into the fray.
        Their views on politics and such make me think that too many people like Wm. Ayers have had major influence over what they’ve learned, so far.

  9. So the takeaway from that talk is Paris will be a non-event. No treaty, party on! Whoo hoo!!!
    And
    The bozos in the clown cars Ride on.

  10. No wonder he is an ex official, there is way too much undertone of practicality there. Only the impractical and immovable climate ministers may apply in the future. Something along the lines of the current EPA chief is the new normal. In that ministry, there is no science process of doubt or checking just full speed ahead.

  11. I’m reposting my limerick on this more on-topic thread. It’s a muse on sustainable energy.
    If you like your energy sustainable,
    You must first make the climate trainable.
    When the wind’s always right,
    And the sun shines all night,
    I think that it might be attainable!

    • Probably the airport in Seoul. International Council on Local Environmental Issues (ICLEI) is holding its 2015 meeting in Seoul. What clued me in is the ICLEI poster in the upper right corner.
      ICLEI is hired by many, many city and regional governments all over the world to ‘advise’ city management about how to implement the UN promoted so-called soft laws of Agenda 21 That includes building skyscrapers with 250 sq.ft. units and other equally appealing density development in what they call human settlements. It is the World Bank that determines the fee that any city is required to pay for the ‘service’.
      http://www.iclei.org

  12. Former UN climate chief Yvo de Boer’s statement strikes me as a next step in classic negotiations.
    Others including his successor started the negotiations with the insistence on abolishing coal. Supposedly accomplished by excessive burdens of ‘carbon taxes’ on those rich enough, e.g. ‘Western Civilizations’.
    Now Yvo de Boer’s negotiating terms are reduced to allowing “economically viable alternative” coal fired electricity generators to help raise the standards of living for the world’s third world.
    Compared to Christiana Figueres’ position, de Boer comes across as less extreme and middle of the positions. Even though part of de Boer’s position is the carbon taxes!
    No negotiating! We require scientific proof that CO2 is the problem!

    • Yep, that’s his angle.
      Carbon is O.K. for some and for others we need to tax the hell out of it to push the cost up to that of other sources of energy.

  13. Coal is still king, though the warmenistas, climaloons and greenies are doing their best to chop its head off.
    It is king for a very good reason; it is cheap and plentiful. And cheap, plentiful power is what advances humanity, boosting economies, and raising living standards worldwide.
    The opposite of what the aforementioned haters of humanity want, in other words.

  14. Yvo de Boer, April 2007: Environmental refugees – from climate change, deforestation, desertification – to reach 50 millions by the end of the decade – i.e. 2010. I remember reading about 1 who found “refuge” in New Zealand, but was then discovered to be a fake.

  15. So am I the only one who heard it? At 6:00 he stated that Paris will not have any legally binding treaty.
    Why bother other than to party in Paris.

  16. Coal is good because it produces more CO2, and Earth is clearly CO2 deficient.
    I wrote the following on this subject, posted on Icecap.us:
    On Climate Science, Global Cooling, Ice Ages and Geo-Engineering:
    [excerpt]
    Furthermore, increased atmospheric CO2 from whatever cause is clearly beneficial to humanity and the environment. Earth’s atmosphere is clearly CO2 deficient and continues to decline over geological time. In fact, atmospheric CO2 at this time is too low, dangerously low for the longer term survival of carbon-based life on Earth.
    More Ice Ages, which are inevitable unless geo-engineering can prevent them, will cause atmospheric CO2 concentrations on Earth to decline to the point where photosynthesis slows and ultimately ceases. This would devastate the descendants of most current [terrestrial] life on Earth, which is carbon-based and to which, I suggest, we have a significant moral obligation.
    Atmospheric and dissolved oceanic CO2 is the feedstock for all carbon-based life on Earth. More CO2 is better. Within reasonable limits, a lot more CO2 is a lot better.
    As a devoted fan of carbon-based life on Earth, I feel it is my duty to advocate on our behalf. To be clear, I am not prejudiced against non-carbon-based life forms, but I really do not know any of them well enough to form an opinion. They could be very nice. 🙂
    Best, Allan

  17. Surely these developing countries could well use all the fantastic jobs and other economic benefits that renewable energy is promised to bring?
    /sarc

  18. Interestingly (as I had noted over at Judith Curry’s a few days ago), prior to the “official” release of AR5 WGI, the now former Figueres figure had declared, during the course of a Nov. 2012 trip downunder:

    That report is going to scare the wits out of everyone, […] I’m confident those scientific findings will create new political momentum.

    Nonetheless, in the midst of last September’s hoopla in N.Y.C., de Boer did provide a few notes of reality, including (my bold):

    In a sense, this is a good opportunity to take the climate process out of its coma, from a political point of view, and re-engage political leaders. But Paris is still quite far away.

    It’s also worth recalling that – unlike Pachauri, Achim Steiner and now declared Pachauri-wannabe candidate, van Ypersele – in the days after Climategate 1.0, de Boer’s comments approximated those of a voice of reason:

    [de Boer] said that the stolen e-mails looked “very bad” and were fuelling scepticism, but said the media scrutiny was not unwelcome. Mr de Boer said: “I think it’s very good that what is happening is being scrutinised in the media because this process has to be based on solid science. If quality and integrity is being questioned, that has to be examined.”

    Too bad that the investigations pursuant to Climategate, for by far the most part, failed to heed de Boer’s advice.

  19. This exactly, what I was saying at different forums.
    As on April 2015 the % population of China, India & USA are 18.9%, 17.5% & 4.4%.
    If we look at power production as % of total power production in India and USA, they are: under RES + Nuclear + Hydol = 34.0% & 29.5%; and for diesel + gas + coal = 66% & 68.7% at the end of August 2011.
    This shows India’s share of clean energy is slightly higher than USA and per capita power consumption in India is far far lower than USA. This is quite obvious as climate conditions make the difference.
    However, the point is that though we encourage alternate clean energy, with increasing power needs under growing population and power intensive technologies, we still need to increase thermal power production. Otherwise it collapses the system and thus economy.
    We must wait until somebody develops a power production technology to replace thermal power production!!!
    At the same time we must give importance to pollution [air, water, soil & food] that has an impact on national economy and as pump more pollution in to the atmosphere instead of harping on carbon dioxide [anthropogenic greenhouse gases] and global warming. The countries are suffering with pollution and natural climate change that needs attention.
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    • What if there is a way to directly convert low temperature heat [under 100 F] directly to electricity? What if the efficiency of this thermodynamic process is above 70%. Waste heat, solar thermal, etc., could be easily converted to electricity. Would you be interested?
      Contact Jlurtz@basicisp.net

    • Bloomberg Business is not the market. It is also owned by the green billionaire Michael Bloomberg. They regularly do puff-pieces for greenery.
      n.b. Did you notice the solar panels partially obscured by accumulated snow? lol.

      • Every prediction they have made about oil prices and production have been wrong. They keep expecting oil production to slow down in the U.S. Bloomberg is an anti-capitalist.

  20. “You really have to be able to offer these countries an economically viable alternative, before you begin to rule out coal,” he said.

    If non-coal energy is not a viable alternative for poor countries why would non-coal energy be viable for healthier economies, especially since readily available and reasonably priced energy is a cornerstone for robust economies and a higher quality of life.
    So why would more established economies come up with this charade to inhibit third world growth?
    The haves are concerned with the have-nots only as it enhances their status as the haves. More established economies want to limit competition, ideally they want slaves, when that is not possible, they’ll settle for control. Which internationally is what this nonsense about coal helps them with.

  21. Wikipedia’s entry on Ms Figueres makes this claim:
    At the 2013 International Coal and Climate summit, Figueres stated coal power can be part of the solution to global warming. In her speech, she also noted coal power could help poorer countries’ economic development and poverty reduction.[66]

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