MADRID (Reuters) - Old coal-fired power plants should be closed and replaced by cleaner gas plants to slash carbon emissions, the Chief Executive of the biggest gas producer in Europe said on Wednesday.
Helge Lund, the head of Norway's StatoilHydro, told the World Petroleum Congress in Madrid that substituting coal for gas was a sound strategy for fighting climate change.
"Climate change is perhaps the challenge of our time," he said. "I see gas as an energy bridge to a less carbon intensive world."
Statoil's carbon capture and wind energy projects may have less of an impact on carbon levels than all the carbon savings that could be made in the power sector from burning gas instead of coal, he said, allaying concerns in big consuming countries about over reliance on the fuel.
"Norway has been and will continue to be a reliable supplier of gas to Europe," he said. "Gas exports may be our biggest contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
Efficient gas fired power plants produce about a third of the planet warming gases that old coal fired plants do and Lund said the nascent technology to trap them safely underground was too expensive to be widely used.
He backed growing calls for a global carbon market to set a uniform charge for emitting carbon dioxide.
"International action is needed to set a realistic market price for carbon but the developed world must its responsibility to carry most of the bill," he said.
(Reporting by Daniel Fineren)