Video Duration 24 minutes 50 seconds
From: Counting the Cost

The world’s unrelenting drive for coal power

What will it take to reduce coal-fired electricity? Plus, a look at the shipping industry as an unseen polluter.

Global carbon dioxide emissions held steady for the first time in three years in 2019. The International Energy Agency says that was thanks to a switch from coal power to renewables in advanced economies.

The United Nations estimates that the world needs to reduce coal-fired electricity by two-thirds in the next 10 years, to meet the goals of the Paris climate change agreement.

Despite that our pursuit of coal is unrelenting.

Data from shows more than $50bn is being ploughed into coal-powered projects around the world.

China alone is contributing almost $40bn in financing projects from the United States to Australia.

And rather than scaling back on coal-powered electricity, over the last two years China has added 43 gigawatts of capacity – that is as much power produced by Germany’s power generators.

Although Germany has said it would eliminate its coal power stations, it is spending more than $1bn on projects in Greece and India.

Kai Niebert, president of the German League for Nature, Animal and Environment Protection, tells Al Jazeera that we are at a very “critical phase” from a climate perspective.

“We are entering a new era where renewables should be on the rise but we are still subsidising and financing the fossil sector.”

Shipping: The unseen polluter

The shipping industry is often referred to as the unseen polluter.

About 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea with an estimated $4 trillion worth of goods being moved every year.

The European Union believes if the industry goes unchecked, it could contribute to a fifth of emissions by 2050.

Shipping now accounts for about 3 percent of global emissions and, like the aviation industry, it is not part of the Paris accord.

“This pollution is happening pretty much at the time out in the deep sea, away from the prying eyes of the public,” Gavin Allwright, secretary of the International Windship Association, explains.

But Allwright says although shipping can be considered an unseen polluter, it moves a majority of world trade and is probably the most efficient of all the modes of transport.

Now there are initiatives under way, where batteries are being used to help power ships and wind power is being considered as an alternative.

Still turning around an industry that invests hundreds of millions of dollars in each ship is quite literally like turning around a supertanker.