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FAQs on coal and poverty

Illustration: coal and poverty FAQs

​Coal is the world’s number one source of CO2 emissions and produces 40% of our electricity. If the world does not phase out emissions from coal power urgently, we will fail to avoid catastrophic climate change. This means that over 80% of known coal reserves must remain in the ground if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius.

A changing climate – and the danger of temperatures exceeding that threshold – threatens the lives and livelihoods of over 400 million people. The world’s poorest people are most at risk.

Energy is also critical to fighting poverty and spurring development. Eradicating poverty requires delivering power to developing economies and increasing energy access for billions of people.

The coal industry claims that ongoing coal production is needed to combat poverty. However, other groups say that this is not a sustainable strategy for poverty eradication. Nor, they say, is it necessary: more sustainable energy options are both readily available and effective at delivering the energy services that will help people lift themselves out of poverty.

Christian Aid, CAFOD and ODI – who support partners in many developing countries and carry out research and advocacy to reduce poverty and build sustainable development – have created these FAQs to shed light on the relationship between coal, poverty, and development.

A broader group of partners – including Practical Action, Vasudha Foundation (India), and the Institute for Essential Service Reform (Indonesia) – also contributed.

The first FAQ explores the relationship between coal, energy poverty and energy access. The second examines how coal relates to broader poverty and development objectives. The third considers coal’s environmental impacts.

FAQ 1: coal, poverty and energy access

Illustration: coal, poverty and energy access

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FAQ 2: coal, economic development and poverty reduction

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FAQ 3: coal, poverty and the environment

Illustration: coal, poverty and the environment

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James Ryan Hogarth; Laurie van der Burg; Sam Pickard; Caroline Haywood