Ex-CEO of Unilever says it would be stupidity to not phase out coal

Ex-CEO of Unilever says it would be stupidity to not phase out coal


  • At COP26, Paul Polman tells reporters that “we had to tone down the phrasing on coal to phase down,” which was “disappointing.”

Disappointment for weaker phrasing on Coal

Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman said it was “disappointing” that the Glasgow Climate Pact’s language on coal had been softened down, but expressed hope. At the COP27 and COP28 conferences in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, it will be finalized.

Paul Polman, speaking to reporters at the ADIPEC energy business summit in Abu Dhabi last week, looked philosophical about the COP26 agreement. In this case, India and China pushed on a last-minute modification in coal terminology from “phase out” to “phase down.”

“But feels that the direction has once again been determined and that we will accelerate,” he added, adding that watering down the phrasing on coal to phase down unwillingly was regrettable. If that is the interim compromise, he added, “maybe in Egypt or Abu Dhabi we will have phase-out because there is no other choice.”

“Australia has to see that as well: 56 percent coal is still unsustainable in that country,” he said. “It has one of the highest per capita emissions in the world, and it is unsustainable.” He went on to remark, “It’s really beyond foolish for the prime minister, Scott Morrison, to suggest the free market will take care of that.”

“And I believe the rest of the world will not allow that to continue any longer,” said Polman, co-founder, and co-chair of the social venture Imagine. “It’s called planet Earth, and we’re all in the same boat.”

Facts from Australia

According to Australian government data, fossil fuels accounted for 76 percent of total energy generation in 2020, with coal accounting for 54 percent, gas for 20%, and oil for 2%. In Australia, coal accounted for 56 percent of total electricity generation in 2019.

Request for a response from reporters regarding Polman’s remarks was not responded to by the Australian prime minister’s office. Morrison went on to declare, “We have a balanced plan to achieve net-zero by 2050,” when speaking to media in Australia.

“But we’re not going to make rural and regional Australians pay for it; instead, we’ll do it in a balanced way, focusing on the technical breakthroughs that we know will help us solve the problem.”

“We’re not going to tax Australians to do it,” he added. “We’re not going to legislate, regulate, and force them to do things.” According to the International Energy Agency, coal accounted for 36.7 percent of global electricity generation in 2019.

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