The True Cost of Coal: how people and the planet are paying the price for the world’s dirtiest fuel



Greenpeace 2008

The fact is that coal is the most polluting energy source around, and the dominant source of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Across the planet, 11 billion tonnes of CO2 come from coal-fired power generation every year. In 2005, this made up just about 41% of all fossil fuel CO2 emissions. If plans to build new coal-fired power plants go ahead, CO2 emissions from coal will
increase 60%  by 2030.

Coal may be the cheapest fossil fuel on the market, but its market price is only half the story. The financial price includes a range of factors, from mining and retailing costs to government taxes and, of course, profit, but it ignores some of the biggest taxes, and costs of coal: the tremendous human and environmental damage it causes. If the true cost of coal to governments and people around the world were reflected in its market price, the viability of building ever more coal plants would be very different. In purely economic terms, the continued use of coal is also a ticking time-bomb.

In this report,  Greenpeace’s own preliminary analysis of the true costs of coal, conducted by the Dutch Research Institute CE Delft, shows that damages attributable to the coal chain of custody amount to roughly €360 billion in 2007. Accidents in the global coal power chain cost at least €161 million in 2007; and mining carries with it hidden damage costs, which came to at least €674 million in 2007.

Read the full report here