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Asia Minute: Asia Pacific Remains Dependent on Coal

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A United Nations report out this week warns that the world has a dozen years to make dramatic changes in energy use to limit the impact of global warming. That includes dramatically cutting the use of coal. But for several countries in the Asia Pacific, both economics and politics are moving in a different direction.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is recommending coal be phased out as an energy source by the year 2050 – a path requiring a major course change for the Asia Pacific.

Australia’s government says coal currently supplies 60-percent of the country’s energy as well as 50,000 jobs, and it’s a leading export.

China is even more dependent on coal. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says more than 70-percent of China’s electricity comes from coal — making it the world’s largest coal consumer.

India’s government says nearly 60-percent of its electricity comes from coal, and the government expects it to remain the country’s main energy source for at least the next thirty years.

Even Japan continues to rely on coal – for nearly a third of its electricity. The government there dramatically increased its construction of coal-fired plants following the sharp rise of oil prices in the 1970’s.

Credit CSIRO / www.scienceimage.csiro.au/image/10945

Policymakers once planned to dramatically slash its use of coal to 11-percent by the year 2030 — in part by increasing its use of nuclear power. But after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, those plans shifted.

Japan now wants to cut its use of coal to a little more than a quarter of its energy needs by 2030.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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