Close the coal plants in the Netherlands, this is what 64 professors wrote in Trouw on Monday. The Wageningen professor Pier Vellinga is allowed to explain the submitted letter to various media.
The letter was signed by 64 professors. Why is the mass media calling you?
The initiator of the letter was Jan Rotmans. He also submitted it to Trouw. But because he is currently at the climate march of Urgenda, it is difficult to reach him, that is why I came in the picture. I am not the only scientist who is asked these days to give clarification on climate issues. Jan Rotmans and Rik Leemans also do a lot. The KNMI for example reported code orange for the climate. With the Paris summit at the door the climate is now a prime topic, and it is about time.’
The terror threat in Paris seemed to overshadow the climate summit, but the climate has still successfully taken the spotlight.
‘Finally the thing we have been waiting for is happening. You can see that an energy revolution is happening. Pension funds are withdrawing their money from oil companies, the market for coals has collapsed and solar parks and wind farms are being built worldwide without any subsidy. But the Netherlands is lagging behind.’
The proposal is to shut down coal plants and to switch to gas plants. Is that the way forward?
‘Burning coals produces one and a half to twice as much CO2 as gas. Moreover, it also releases particulates and heavy metals. In the US and Germany hundreds of coal plants were shut down in the past few years. And what does the Netherlands do? We build new coal plants. Coal companies have lost ninety percent of their market value in four years, because everyone is dumping coals. But the Netherlands is picking them up again. They are really the dirtiest kid on the block’
If the Netherlands closes eleven coal plants, of which three are new, then that’s capital destruction, right?
‘Right now new gas plants are stopped because producing energy with coals is a bit cheaper than with gas. Moreover, in the letter we point out that the Netherlands is now paying up to €500 million per years on subsidies to coal centres to co-incinerate with wood chips. If we shut down coal centres we can use that money to indemnify energy companies to a large extent. But the most important is that, also according to the court, we must reduce our emissions in 2020 by 25 percent compared to 1990. The most effective manner to reach this is to shut down the coal centres. The Netherlands is calling out that something needs to be done against climate change, but we are not changing. Well. We are finally focussing on wind at sea. But a lot more can be done.’