New Coal Needs to Be Stopped With Strong Regulation, Stern Says

The world needs to enforce regulations to stem new coal supplies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that threaten global warming, said Nicholas Stern, former World Bank chief economist and adviser to Tony Blair’s government.

“There should be very strong regulation of coal around the world to stop new coal,” Stern, chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said in London. “Without those policies and without public pressure on reputation, I don’t think the incumbents will move anywhere near enough.”

Stern on Monday joined with a group including John Browne, former head of oil giant BP Plc, to spur governments to fund efforts to make clean energy cheaper than coal. The 10-year program, seeking $150 billion to meet its goals, would fund research into renewables, power storage and smart grids.

Solar power costs have fallen more than 50 percent in five years to about $136 a megawatt-hour on average, compared with about $91 for coal, according to Bloomberg estimates. Onshore wind is already cheaper at about $85.

Oil companies are switching toward producing natural gas and promoting it as coal’s cleaner successor. “Total is gas, and gas is good,” Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said Monday. “The enemy is coal.” Total began producing more gas than oil in 2014, a year after Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

Stern called for businesses to lead by example, cleaning up their supply operations and producing low-carbon products. “One of the positive things I have seen in the past year or two is the way the business community really has stepped up,” he said. “They see the risks to themselves, they see the importance to the monetary bottom line of acting responsibly.”

The flood of humanity that’s set to almost double city populations by the middle of the century offers opportunities for investment in low-carbon infrastructure, according to Stern.

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