coal miner pit

OECD countries phasing out coal as China continues new projects

Image credit: DT

Wealthy countries are shutting down their coal plants at record rates in a bid to cut carbon emissions, a report has found, although concerns remain about China’s ongoing use of the fossil fuel.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) said that countries within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are on track to close down over three-quarters of coal-fired electricity generation by 2030.

The scale of proposed new coal power plants has also collapsed globally by the same amount since 2015, which is expected to lead to an irreversible transition away from coal power and towards cleaner electricity.

The report also found that despite short-term energy security concerns arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, over a long-term trajectory, coal is firmly on the way out.

Since 2015, the global capacity of operating coal power plants increased by 170GW to a total 2,067GW as of July 2022. However, if China is removed from the picture, the rest of the world has seen a net decrease of 54GW (5 per cent) since 2015, with coal power capacity in the rest of the world outside of China peaking in 2017.

In February, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said that China was continuing to invest in coal-based power plants and steel facilities at “alarming rates” despite its carbon neutrality targets.

The PPCA said that some countries, particularly the most vulnerable, will need support to achieve a swift coal phase-out – but doing so is a “crucial first step” to keep temperatures from rising above 1.5°C as coal remains the single biggest contributor to human-created climate change.

This requires an immediate end to the building of new unabated coal power plants, rapid scaling-up of clean power and the retirement of existing coal fleets in advanced economies by 2030 and globally by 2040.

The UK is committed to phasing out unabated coal generation by October 2024, building on a swift decline of 40 per cent of electricity supply in 2012 to less than 2 per cent in 2020. Nevertheless, it emerged last year that some coal plants were being told to keep generating a little longer in order to hedge against possible blackouts caused by tight fuel supplies.

UK climate change minister, and PPCA co-chair, Graham Stuart, said: “Today’s report shows that coal has no future, so we must deliver a just transition for workers and communities, who can benefit from new green jobs and clean renewable energy.”

Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for climate ambition, said: “We’ve taken important steps towards ending coal use. In the US, we’ve closed more than two-thirds of coal plants in the last decade.

“In Europe, more than 50 per cent of coal plants are now set to retire by 2030. That progress has helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deadly air pollution. This report outlines the progress we’ve made globally and shows where and how we can do more – including ending subsidies for the coal industry and stopping private financing for new coal plants.

“The faster we cut coal use and accelerate the deployment of clean energy, the more lives we can save, and the better our chances of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.”

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