Russian scientist says leave coal in the ground in order to keep climate change at bay

A Russian scientist takes up the leave-it-in-the-ground mantra, adding renewable energy can no longer be called the alternative.

Irshad Salim — Nearly all of the world’s coal reserves and 30 percent of its oil should be left alone in order to keep climate change at bay, a Russian scientist said.

Mikhail Yulkin, the director general at the Center for Environmental Investments, told Russian news agency Tass that investors were moving to low-carbon energy resources with such vigor that it was “needless” to call it alternative energy.

A report last week on the global energy balance from the International Energy Agency (IEA) found coal was more or less at parity with natural gas as an energy source for the first time ever, with some analysts predicting coal may turn into stranded asset eventually but sooner than expected.

According to the IEA, global coal production declined last year by 458 million tons as advanced economies move toward greener resources — led by China ( a global leader now in renewables) as it seeks to descale hundreds of its coal-powered plants with reports they may be shipped overseas.

China, the second-largest economy, this week put restrictions in new coal-fired power in order to ensure clean-energy resources are promoted further.

“In order to reach the climate change parameters set out in the Paris accords, it is necessary to leave in the earth 80 percent of explored coal, up to one half of gas and 30 percent of oil, which means that other sources [of energy] will be developing,” Yulkin was quoted as saying.

Geoffrey Styles, Managing Director of independent US-based consultancy GSW Strategy Group says it is likelier that coal, not gas, faces the biggest risk from the growth of renewables.

Coal plants in China

The IEA reported that renewable energy generation grew almost 4 percent last year in advanced economies to account for about a quarter of total electricity generated. In the last 15 years, the IEA estimates solar power alone grew by 43 percent.

Russian total coal production, according to the World Energy Council, has declined significantly since just before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

U.S. President Donald Trump has put emphasis on revitalizing the coal sector in the country and his administration has started the process of leaving the Paris climate deal, but major cities in the US have joined hands to move towards green energy.

Coal has lost 18 points of electricity market share in US since 2007 (from 48.5% to 30.4%), with two-thirds of that drop picked up by gas and one-third by expanding renewables, says a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the renewables-focused analytical arm of Bloomberg.

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