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Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman attacks Australia

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Former CEO of consumer goods giant Unilever told CNBC that he was “disappointed” that the Glasgow climate pact on coal had been relaxed, but hoped they would be reaffirmed at COP27 and COP28 summits in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. …

Speaking last week with CNBC’s Dan Murphy at the Adipec energy forum in Abu Dhabi, Paul Polman sounded philosophical about the deal negotiated at COP26, in which India and China pushed for an immediate rewording of fossil fuels from a “phase-out.” Coal to phase-out.

“It is disappointing that we had to soften the wording on coal to … cut,” he said. “But I believe that the direction has been set again and we will accelerate.”

“If it is a compromise in between, hopefully in Egypt or Abu Dhabi we will have a phase-out – there is no other choice.”

“We should, it would be foolish not to,” Polman said before aiming at Australia, a country where coal still plays an important role.

“Australia also needs to understand that 56% of the coal in this country is still unacceptable,” he said. “One of the highest per capita emissions in the world, that’s unacceptable.”

“And for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to say that the free market will take care of this is just naive.”

“And I think the rest of the world won’t allow that anymore,” said Polman, co-founder and co-chairman of social enterprise Imagine. “We are all in the same boat: this is called planet Earth.”

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

The Australian Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a CNBC request for comment on Polman’s remarks.

Morrison was asked last Monday if he agreed that COP26 was the funeral link for coal, a reference to comments made by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the summit ended.

“No,” he replied. “I don’t believe that was the case, and for all those who work in this industry in Australia, they will continue to work in this industry for decades to come.”

“Because there will be a transitional period that will take place over a long period of time, and I do not apologize to Australia for our national interests, be they our security interests or our economic interests.”

Morrison, who spoke to reporters back in Australia, said that “we have a balanced plan to reach net zero by 2050.”

“But we are not going to make rural and regional Australians pay for this, we are going to do it in a balanced way, focusing on the technological advances that we know will actually allow us to solve this problem.”

“We are not going to tax Australians, we are not going to legislate, regulate and force them to do something,” he said.

“I think that over the past couple of years, Australians have had a lot of governments telling them what to do,” he said, “and our approach to ensuring our economic recovery is to not tell businesses what to do. rather than telling clients what to do. doing. Our plan is for them to take the lead so that their choice is the leader. “

Coal accounted for 36.7% of global electricity generation in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency.

While coal remains an important source of electricity, it has a significant impact on the environment, and the US Energy Information Administration lists a number of emissions from coal combustion. These include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.

Elsewhere, Greenpeace described coal as “the dirtiest and most polluting form of energy production.”

“Burning produces more carbon dioxide than oil or gas, so this is a big problem when it comes to climate change,” adds the environmental group.

“Coal also produces toxic elements such as mercury and arsenic and small soot particles that contribute to air pollution.”


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