Carbon trap: how international coal finance undermines the Paris Agreement

As the threat of climate change looms, the world must transition to cleaner energy and avoid burning most fossil fuels. Coal is of particular concern, accounting for two fifths of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use— more than any other individual source. Still, governments continue to invest in projects that further the world’s dependence on coal. Governments have a limited pool of public funds that they can use to make investments in other countries, often in an effort to bring sorely needed energy resources to places without reliable energy access. While expanding energy access is a worthy endeavor, these investments often take the form of coal-fired power plants, coal mining, and other coal-related projects, such as the building of railways and ports designed primarily to transport coal. These dirty investments are damaging the air, water, public health, and environment of developing nations under the guise of bringing energy. The costs and life spans of coal projects can stretch for decades, trapping developing nations in a system of incredibly carbon-intensive energy use.