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Energy News Monitor, Volume XVIII, Issue 20

22 November 2021

Summary

At COP26 in Glasgow, India’s last-minute intervention to change, “phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” to “phase-down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” in the draft text of the Glasgow climate pact received widespread criticism. Many missed the fact that India merely introduced the term “phase-down” from the text of the agreement between China and the US made earlier at Glasgow. Even without India’s intervention, the draft text contained sufficient legal ambiguity in the words “unabated” and “inefficient” to get away with continued use of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels. More importantly, the text did not specify a date by which coal and fossil fuel subsidies would have to be phased out which meant that the use of coal and fossil fuel subsidies could continue indefinitely. India became the convenient villain in the emotion-driven climate activism that requires one to sustain itself. But not long ago, the wealthier world “phased-up” coal in the energy mix of the developing world. The coal-nuclear strategy Reports that emerged in the early 1980s from high profile global conferences such as the Workshop on Alternative Energy Strategies, the Istanbul World Energy Conference and the voluminous report ‘Energy in a Finite World’ by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), which included the contribution of over 250 scientists, concluded that the most important development in the 21 st century would be the exponential growth of the developing world—then labelled the third world—energy needs. By year 2000, developing countries were expected to be consuming energy of the same order of magnitude as Western European or US consumption in 1980s. A vicious cycle of growth in developing world energy needs that leads to heavier demand on the petroleum market which increases oil prices which in turn aggravates wealthier economies and limits growth in the developing countries was anticipated. This trend towards catastrophic world energy growth gave rise to a common consensus to accelerate nuclear programmes and the exploitation of coal in both industrialised and industrialising countries by year 2000. Once this was accomplished, the developing world, including the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) were expected to be net importers of energy and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries net energy exporters. This reversal of energy flows was based essentially on the exploitation of coal and nuclear technology that the wealthy world would export to the poorer world. Most of known reserves of coal and most of the technologies to exploit coal and nuclear power were with western countries.

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