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Symposium 2015

Virtual Library File - Big Oil, Coal and Gas Paying for their Climate Damage

The Challenge

Over 80 % of global coal reserves cannot be burned if the world is serious about limiting global warming to a maximum of 2°C above pre-industrial levels and thus prevent dangerous climate change impa ...

Over 80 % of global coal reserves cannot be burned if the world is serious about limiting global warming to a maximum of 2°C above pre-industrial levels and thus prevent dangerous climate change impacts. Coal mining is connected to serious human rights violations and environmental disasters while coal power plants are polluting air and water, causing negative health impacts and often death. Coal is the main energy resource for many countries across the world and often considered the only option for cheap energy access for the poor. Many governments are heavily subsidizing coal projects, technologies and infrastructure - often with official development assistance budgets. However, the dusk of the age of ‘King Coal’ might be nearer than we think: financial institutions, investors and shareholders alike are realizing that investing in a sunset technology of “unburnable carbon” puts them at high risk while fossil fuel companies are facing emerging litigation risks for the climate change impacts their products are causing and also for their role in actively preventing the implementation of effective climate policies.


In 2013, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage was established at UNFCCC COP 19. The report shows the responsibility of 90 entities for 65% of global emissions. The authors demand that those entities assume their historical responsibility and contribute their fair share to that mechanism. It suggests a viable way to do so.