Closing coal: economic and moral incentives

Working Paper 157


Climate policy required that much of the world’s reserves of fossil fuels remain unburned. This paper makes the case for implementing this directly through policy to close the global coal industry.

Coal is singled out because of its high emissions intensity, low rents per unit value, local environmental costs and sheer scale. Direct supply policy – the sequenced closure of coal mines – may lead to less policy leakage (across countries and time) than other policies based on demand or price management. It also has the advantage of involving relatively few players and leading to clear-cut and observable outcomes.

Appropriately sequenced closure of the world coal industry could, we suggest, create the moral force needed to mobilise collective international action.

Paul Collier and Anthony J. Venables