Coal in the 21st Century: a climate of change and uncertainty

(2019). Coal in the 21st Century: a climate of change and uncertainty. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Energy, 172(2) pp. 46–63.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1680/jener.18.00011

Abstract

Coal presents a particular set of challenges when balancing energy policy goals. Despite presenting viable solutions to the problems of energy security and global energy poverty, coal struggles, given its greenhouse-gas drawbacks, in a world of increasingly harmful climate change. Notwithstanding the harm caused to the environment, coal remains an expanding low-price route to meeting local energy needs. It is forecasted to remain a major global resource for the foreseeable future. In the short term it is predicted to have a 26% share of the global energy mix. Recent years have witnessed severe deviations from previously stable trends in coal markets and policy dynamics. According to the predictions by the International Energy Agency (IEA), a variety of factors ranging from the planned phase-out of coal in countries such as Denmark, France and the UK, to changes in policy in China and import-dependency in India, and demand drop in the US have together resulted in the largest decline in coal production in 2015 since 1971 (IEA, Coal Information, 2016). This paper seeks to outline basic coal facts, recent market trends and directions globally and provides an overview of issues shaping the future of coal in the twenty-first century. This paper seeks to outline basic coal facts, recent market trends and directions globally and provide an overview of issues shaping the future of coal in the 21st century.

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