There is no technology yet to make coal-fired station clean, says climate adviser
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
The Independent, Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Britain's latest coal-fired power station should not be built, according to Lord Stern of Brentford, the economist who led the Government's review into the financial cost of climate change. Lord Stern called on the Government to halt the planning process and said that the new coal-fired power station proposed for Kingsnorth in Kent cannot be justified until the technology is developed to capture and store its huge carbon dioxide emissions.
It is the first time that the author of the landmark 2006 Stern Review has spoken out against coal power.
Coal is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide release per megawatt of electricity generated. Lord Stern said it was important to send out a message to other countries, notably China, that Britain will not contemplate new coal-fired power stations until carbon capture and storage is proved to work.
"We shouldn't go ahead because coal is so polluting and we need very strong examples of how to move forward with our electricity supply in a way that doesn't use coal... without carbon capture and storage," Lord Stern said.
It could take 10 or 15 years to develop the technology, where carbon dioxide emissions are prevented from being released into the atmosphere to exacerbate global warming. "There are other ways we can handle the interim," he said. "The fastest way is to put up a gas-fired power station. That is emitting, but much less so than coal. We've got to build up solar and wind."
Last year, James Hansen, the leading Nasa climate scientist, said: "Kingsnorth is a terrible idea. One power plant with a lifetime of several decades will destroy the efforts of millions of citizens to reduce their emissions."
Lord Stern said the climate crisis was so urgent that we must reduce carbon dioxide emissions as fast and as soon as we can, otherwise the expected increase in global average temperatures could exceed 5C above pre-industrial levels.
"We haven't seen temperatures like that for 30 million years," Lord Stern said. "We've got to understand the magnitude of the risks we face. It will transform where we live. Some places will be deserts, others will be racked by storms. It will involve the likely movement of hundreds of millions, possibly billions of people, and extended conflict."