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Christian charities challenge coal industry on poverty

by Aaron James

The coal industry claims encouraging more use of the fossil fuel is important for international development and improving access to energy for people in developing countries, according to Christian Aid, Cafod and the Overseas Development Institute.

The coal industry also says "clean coal" technology offers 25 to 40 percent less emissions than traditional coal plants, while providing cheap energy to millions of people.

But the three groups warn that building just a third of the planned coal-powered stations, mostly in developing Asia, would push the world towards dangerous climate change which will hit the poor hardest.

Some of those without access to electricity cannot get connected due to cost and mismanagement, while many are in rural areas, according to a research paper authored by the development groups.

Renewables would be the quickest and cheapest way to reaching more than two-thirds of those without access to power, it says.

Sharp declines in the price of solar - by more than 80% since 2009 - and 60% falls in the cost of wind power (main picture) make scaled-up decentralised renewables a more attractive option.

Meanwhile, renewables provide more promising job opportunities to help lift people out of poverty, already employing more people worldwide than coal, the paper by 12 organisations argues.

Part of the coal mining process

Co-author Dr Sarah Wykes, lead analyst on climate and energy at Cafod, said: "The evidence is clear, ensuring everybody in the world has energy by 2030 requires a switch to investment in off-grid solutions, like solar home systems, and mini-grids, as most people without modern electricity live in remote areas.

"This clean, affordable, safe and reliable energy is critical for lifting people out of poverty - including women suffering daily the impacts of cooking with polluting fuels - and for powering businesses, growth and employment."

The paper calls for governments to stop supporting coal expansion, and to prioritise access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy and stop fossil fuel subsidies.

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