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A new study has found a mere 5% of the world’s power plants are responsible for 73% of emissions released from energy generation. A group of researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder analyzed 2018 data from 29,000 fossil fuel power plants in 221 countries and found the world’s top emitters: six of these plants are in China and East Asia, two are in Europe, and two are in India. The world’s “super-emitters” are all coal-powered, tend to be in the global north, and run inefficiently for the amount of energy they generate.
Why This Matters: Electricity generation is the largest contributor to the world’s greenhouse emissions, but this study shows that immediately addressing the most egregious power plants could have an outsize impact on reducing emissions. In the United States we also know where our problem lie. The list of the biggest overall emitters is dominated by some of the biggest U.S. power companies, including North Carolina-based Duke Energy, Atlanta’s Southern Co., and American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio.
If the highest emitting power plants were made more efficient, added new carbon captures, or changed fuels, the researchers calculate that emissions from the world’s electricity production could drop between 17% and 49%.
Sparking Action: The researchers hope this study will inspire activists and policymakers to go after their countries’ “super-emitters.”
“It could be used by climate activists to organize more protests aimed at particular plants and their parent companies,” Don Grant, sociologist at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-author of the paper, told Fast Company. “It could be used as part of a legal strategy that seeks to hold particular plants liable for the disproportionate pollution they create. Replacing or retrofitting super polluting power plants could be the centerpiece of major infrastructure projects. For countries that are not yet ready or willing to shift to renewables, these data provide some alternative mitigation strategies.”
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor With less than one week left until COP26, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has moved his government to the left on climate change, committing for the first time to a net zero target by 2050, but questions remain about the details and many remain frustrated by Morrison’s refusal to […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have hit a three-million-year high, according to a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report published yesterday. Despite a brief dip in emissions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall trend of increasing emissions continues, indicating last year’s dip had little to no impact on […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer A report in the Dasgupta Review shows that by using a fiscal lens to view Earth’s growing biodiversity loss, we can see how it links to economic development. By viewing nature as an asset like “produced capital (roads, buildings and factories)” or “human capital (health, knowledge and skills)” — […]
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