Coal, Climate and Glaciers

Página - 12 abril, 2010
For Greenpeace, Argentina faces a stark choice: coal or its glaciers. Putting our glaciers in jeopardy will be one cost of the current government's energy policy.

Top image: 1928, *Historic Image* Original photograph taken in 1928 of the Upsala Glacier. Bottom image: January 2004, Composite image of Upsala Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina.

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By producing electricity from coal - a fossil fuel - as the national government wants to do, is a strong contribution to emissions of the gases that affect our atmosphere and cause global warming. The process of climate change is putting at risk the continued existence of our glaciers, one of the country's main reservoirs of fresh water. Coal is not an option to be promoted in the current situation and the situation we will live in the coming years; the fact that coal was promoted and encouraged in the middle of last century is not the reason to do it now.

We often hear the phrase "Argentina has no commitments" in relation to climate change. This statement is false, a big mistake. What Argentina does not have is a legally binding quantifiable commitment, that is, it does not have to meet a specific goal in reducing emissions. But Argentina, being part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), assumes reduction commitments (Article 4).  Further to this, as part of the Kyoto Protocol (1997), that commitment is repeated in Article 10. That is, our country as part of such agreements must formulate mitigation policies.

The development of coal as an energy source is a serious error committed by the national government. This is the promotion of a dirty energy source when we have clean energy resources, such as wind power lacking any development. While hundreds of millions of dollars are being allocated annually to dirty energy to renewables there are only promises and announcements that never materialize. The poor development of wind power is a clear demonstration of the failure of Argentina's energy policy to put us on the path to sustainability.

Today the proportion of energy in Argentina derived from coal is small; however, the project to build a coal plant and reopen the coal mine in Rio Turbio in Patagonia is the first step in a massive plan to use coal to generate electricity. This means that the output of Rio Turbio will increase around17 times by 2025.

Greenpeace's concern is that the National Government seems unable to generate an energy model that is innovative and up to the climate challenge we face.

Unfortunately, this decision shows that it is not taking responsibly what is at stake in relation to climate change. In short, it is not too different from what happens in international climate discussions: delays in decision making, double-talk and everything remains the same, which is worse.

Argentina can start right now a transition to renewable energy, reducing emissions and pollution, minimizing social impacts and generating sustainable jobs. The potential of existing resources allows that, we also have the technological capacity; we just need the political will to change.

The world has enough technically accessible renewable energy to meet current energy demands six times over. We need an energy revolution that substitutes wind, solar, energy efficiency and other modern technologies for dirty energy sources like coal. 

A third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal. It's used to produce nearly 40 percent of the world's power, and hundreds of new coal plants are planned over the next years if the industry gets its way.

Apart from climate change, coal also causes irreparable damage to the environment, people's health and communities around the world. While the coal industry itself isn't paying for the damage it causes, the world at large is. Quit coal: go for real solutions.