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25% of Europe Quits Coal
Europe’s coal industry continues its downward spiral as a quarter of European Union countries have now closed their doors to the dirty energy source.
Belgium has become the latest country to shut down its last remaining coal-fired power station, Langerlo.
Announced on March 30, Belgium follows Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta and the Baltic countries in quitting the polluting fossil fuel.
The closure of Belgium’s Langerlo plant comes hot-on-the-heels of Scotland closing Britain’s largest coal-fired power station, Longannet, signaling the end of an era for Scottish coal.
And with plans to phase out coal by 2025 in Britain and Austria and by 2020 in Portugal, “golden days of the coal industry are over” according to Joanna Flisowska of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.
“Ending coal power use in Belgium marks a significant step in the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels,” Flisowska said.
According to CAN, the coal plant closure means Belgium’s annual CO2 emissions will be cut by almost two million tonnes. This is equal to more than one percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Europe joins China and the U.S. in the list of regions moving forward on the path away from coal—an industry which not only contributes to negative health, water and climate impacts, but also continues to see record low production, with major players such as Peabody filing for bankruptcy.
However, not everyone in Europe is keen to say good bye to King Coal just yet. Poland in particular continues to look to burn even more coal as it plans to implement new legislation pushing the country’s energy mix further towards coal and biomass over wind power.
Indeed, the industry appears increasingly desperate to remain relevant. A recent study shows that despite a continued drop in demand for electricity generated by coal, nearly $1 trillion worth of new coal plants are in the pipeline.
And as DeSmog UK revealed last month, Europe’s main coal lobby association EURACOAL paid for Canadian climate science denier Patrick Moore to speak to EU Officials and members of the European Parliament at an intimate dinner-debate entitled “Climate Demons or Climate Gods: Coal Industry Stakes Its Future.”
But as Belgium becomes the seventh European country to move away from coal it seems the industry’s future is looking increasingly bleak.
“Hard times for the coal industry will get a lot tougher yet,” Flisowska said. “This is good news for the climate. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the EU has to ensure that carbon emissions from its coal power plants are cut down much faster than their current rate.”
Scientists estimate more than 80 percent of the world’s coal reserves must stay unburned in order to limit global warming to 2C, the internationally agreed upper limit set under the Paris agreement.
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"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
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Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
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