Another nail has gone into the coffin for coal. A global alliance of 20 nations has committed to phasing out the use of coal to produce energy by 2030. The movement, led by the UK and Canada, has set its sight on more than doubling the signatories by next year, an ambitious goal but one that needs to be realized if we are to take tackling climate change seriously.
The Powering Past Coal Alliance aims to get countries, regions, and provinces to set their own phasing out targets for coal power stations with the aim of being totally coal-free by 2030. They are also required to commit to stopping all new investment in coal-powered electricity both nationally and internationally.
“Reducing global coal consumption should be a vital and urgent priority for all countries and states,” said the UK’s Minister for Climate Change and Industry, Claire Perry. “Unabated coal is the dirtiest, most polluting way of generating electricity.”
The UK is already well on track to get rid of all coal power plants, and even saw its first day in 135 years during which no coal was burned. To date, there are only six coal power plants in the UK that are still operational. These have already been slated to be closed down by 2025, five years earlier than this latest initiative aims for. “The Powering Past Coal Alliance will signal to the world that the time of coal has passed,” said Perry.
In order to limit the warming of the planet to below 2°C, as mapped out by the Paris climate accord, all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries need to phase out the use of coal by 2030, and the rest of the world needs to cut their use of the heavily polluting fuel by two-thirds by 2040. With 40 percent of the Earth’s electricity still coming from burning coal, this is no mean feat, but it is hoped that this alliance will be the seed from which more action can grow.
Since 1990 the UK has slashed its greenhouse emissions by 42 percent while at the same time seeing its economy grow by 67 percent, Perry told the BBC. It is clearly possible to balance tackling carbon emissions and phasing out coal and still having a healthy economy, despite what some other governments will have you believe.
The alliance includes some big names, including France, Mexico, and Finland. But there are some noticeable absences, such as Germany, India, and China not on board yet. Developing nations still have a bit of a leeway internationally in burning coal, although China is holding back in investing in new plants.
Unsurprisingly, the US is not on the list. In fact, at the COP23 climate meeting, they were doing the very opposite. Rather than trying to phase out coal, the US delegation went around promoting it instead.