No More Coal: These 7 Countries Sign Pledge Not to Build New Coal Power Plants

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Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “No More Coal: These 7 Countries Sign Pledge Not to Build New Coal Power Plants” – below is their description.

Seven countries have signed a pledge initiated by the United Nations to stop building new coal power plants, with the aim to gather more signatures before the global climate summit COP26 in Glasgow next month.

The No New Coal agreement is the latest attempt to try and piece together a global phase-out of the dirtiest fossil fuel. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants to end the pipeline of new plants this year, while COP26 President Alok Sharma has said his goal for the summit is to “consign coal to history.” Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Montenegro, Sri Lanka and the U.K. signed the latest pledge.

“Moving away from coal is not a death knell for industrialization, but rather a much better opportunity for green jobs,” said Damilola Ogunbiyi, chief executive officer of the UN-backed international organization Sustainable Energy for All. That’s “what will drive other countries to join,” she said.

A separate initiative launched in 2017, called the Powering Past Coal Alliance, sets a higher bar. It includes 41 countries that have committed to phasing out existing coal operations as soon as 2030 in many cases, on top of promising not to build new plants. An additional 40 nations outside the alliance don’t have a single coal power plant in the pipeline, according to environmental think tank E3G.

That means more countries were ready to commit to not building new coal plants, but not all were ready to phase out existing operations. The No New Coal pact adds a missing step in the ladder for such nations by allowing them to make an easier pledge in the hope that it will ultimately accelerate the end coal.

In the run up to COP26, a number of such voluntary alliances are being created. Last week, the U.S. and European Union launched the Global Methane Pledge that aims to reduce emissions of the super-warming gas by 30% within a decade. Last month, Denmark and Costa Rica launched the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance seeks to end the extraction of oil and gas by midcentury.

The patchwork of alliances targeting dirty sources of energy or specific greenhouse gases are a far cry from the systematic, orderly energy transition that the world needs. Rather, it’s an acceptance of the political reality of climate diplomacy that has to accommodate countries’ different stages of development.

The No New Coal pact is a big step for some signatories. “Sri Lanka has been debating whether to build new coal plants for a few years,” said Christine Spearer of Global Energy Monitor, which tracks coal power plants globally. “If countries like Pakistan and Malaysia join, then we can really start to see the end of new coal plants.”

Still, there won’t be a significant reduction unless China, which is home to more than half of the world’s pipeline of new coal power plants, stops using the fuel. Xi didn’t address the domestic issue in his remarks to the UN.

Burning coal for electricity generation contributes to about a third of the world’s total carbon-dioxide emissions. With cleaner sources of power, such as solar and wind, becoming cheaper to build and operate, the case for ending coal keeps getting stronger. All emissions from coal power plants should end by 2040 if the world is to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the International Energy Agency.

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