Powering Past Coal Alliance Global Summit, co-hosted by Minister Wilkinson, shows global momentum toward the phase-out of coal and strengthens resolve to accelerate action

News release

Windmills in field

March 4, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario

Phasing out unabated coal-fired power in a manner that supports workers and communities is one of the most important steps that we can take to support a healthier environment and economy. That is why following United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ call to curtail coal-fired electricity, Canada and the United Kingdom cofounded the Powering Past Coal Alliance in 2017. The Alliance brings together governments, industry, financial institutions, companies, labour, and civil society to accelerate the phase-out of unabated coal power and has put one third of coal capacity within Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries on a path to close by the end of this decade.

In the context of the rapidly falling costs and increasing availability of clean energy and with an accelerating climate crisis, Canada and the UK co-hosted the opening plenary of the first-ever Powering Past Coal Alliance Global Summit this week. The co-hosts were joined by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General; Mark Carney, Finance Adviser to the UK Prime Minister for COP26 and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance; Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions; as well as representatives from governments, labour, civil society, and the private sector, from around the world. Among those representatives were the Powering Past Coal Alliance’s ten newest members, including the countries Uruguay and Hungary; the city of Kyoto; major electric utilities, such as Ontario Power Generation; and a series of global pension funds like Canada’s own Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

During the Summit, participants took stock of the progress made to date and agreed to double down on their efforts to encourage more governments and private-sector entities to move past coal in advance of COP26 in Glasgow this year.

At the Summit, Canada and other members of the Alliance shared their experiences to help one another succeed in their transitions. Minister Wilkinson recognized that there are millions of people around the world, including in Canada, for whom coal is a way of life and a source of good, fulfilling work. He stated that coal workers, their families, and their communities must be at the centre of the clean-energy transition. Minister Wilkinson also noted that when Canada first committed to accelerating the phase-out of coal-fired power, it also established the Just Transition Task Force, the first of its kind in the country, to provide advice on how best to support coal workers and communities.

Minister Wilkinson highlighted that innovation and technologies are changing how we make, supply, and use electricity, creating significant opportunities for countries to access cleaner sources of electricity. He also noted that, thanks to these developments and Canada’s abundance of hydropower, Canada’s electricity grid is 83 percent non-emitting and that the country is on track to meeting its goal of 90 percent by 2030. He also shared Canada’s new commitment in its recently announced strengthened climate plan to achieve a net-zero clean-electricity grid by 2050.

Major players in the global financial sector are increasingly making sustainability central to how they invest and manage risk, including the newest finance members who joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance this week and who represent US$1.6 trillion in assets and investments. At the Summit, Minister Wilkinson spoke with UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, Mark Carney, about how the investment decisions of firms in the sector send strong signals to markets and governments alike—including those where coal use continues to grow. Both underlined the importance of collective action to ensure that the trillions of dollars of investments in cost-effective renewable energy that will be required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change are spent toward this end.

Quotes

“Phasing out unabated coal-fired power is one of the most important steps that we can take to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and work toward net zero by 2050. By working together—with a growing number of countries, financial institutions, companies, and subnational governments—we are creating a healthier future for our children and grandchildren.”
– The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Co-Chair of the Powering Past Coal Alliance

“I am delighted to co-host this year’s largest global gathering on phasing out coal power. Having gone over 5,000 hours without using coal for electricity last year, the UK is powering forward with the transition away from coal for power generation and into the enormous economic potential of clean technologies. This global summit will unite world leaders and empower other countries to ensure coal-generated energy becomes a distant memory; protecting the planet; spurring clean growth and job creation across the globe; and enabling a greener, healthier future for this generation and the ones to come.”
– The Right Honourable Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Minister of State (Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth) and Co-Chair of the Powering Past Coal Alliance

“Phasing out coal from the electricity sector is the single most important step to get in line with the 1.5-degree goal. Today, I am calling on all governments, private companies, and local authorities to take three steps. First, cancel all global coal projects in the pipeline and end the deadly addiction to coal. Main emitters and coal users should announce their phase-out plans well before the Glasgow conference. G7 members should take the lead and commit to this phase-out at the G7 June summit at the latest

Second, end the international financing of coal plants and shift investment to renewable energy projects. I ask leaders of main emitting economies to announce the end of their international financial support to coal at the earliest opportunity this year

Third, jump-start a global effort to finally organize a just transition, going coal plant by coal plant if necessary.”
– António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General

“Coal remains the largest contributor to climate change and a major source of toxic pollution. Science makes clear that we must move beyond it—fast. At Bloomberg Philanthropies, we’re glad to be a strategic partner to the Powering Past Coal Alliance as we work together to end coal pollution around the world. As we approach COP26, we need governments to continue raising their ambitions in the race to zero emissions, and the Alliance is working with them to do just that.”
– Michael Bloomberg, United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions

“To meet the 1.5°C target, more than 75 percent of coal reserves will need to stay in the ground, while trillions of dollars of investments every year in cost-effective renewable energy—such as solar, wind, and hydropower—will be needed to transform our energy systems. I welcome the work of the Powering Past Coal Alliance to support the financial sector’s efforts to invest for the sustainable future that we all need and that future generations deserve.”
– Mark Carney, Finance Adviser to the UK Prime Minister, for COP26, and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance

Quick facts

  • Coal is responsible for 20 percent of global greenhouse emissions and is the largest source of global temperature increase.

  • According to the International Energy Agency, pollution from coal power is estimated to have been responsible for 250,000 deaths globally in 2018. Moving away from coal improves overall public health by creating cleaner, more breathable air.

    • For example, Ontario’s coal phase-out helped reduce the number of smog days in the province, from 53 (in 2005) to zero (in 2015).
  • The Powering Past Coal Alliance was co-founded by Canada and the UK in 2017 to bring together governments and the private sector to accelerate the phase-out of unabated coal power.

  • Since then, the coalition has grown to more than 120 members, including 36 countries from virtually every corner of the globe, 36 subnational governments, and 51 organizations—ranging from financial institutions to energy producers and consumers.

  • The following is a full list of new members joining the Alliance at this week’s summit:

    • Uruguay
    • Hungary
    • The city of Kyoto (Japan)
    • Ontario Power Generation (Canada)
    • National Grid (UK)
    • Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) (Canada)
    • CalPERS, the State of California’s public employees pension fund (US)
    • Denmark’s PensionDanmark (Denmark)
    • The Netherlands’ National Civil Pension Fund, ABP (the Netherlands)
    • M&G Plc (UK)
  • The Government of Canada is phasing out coal-fired electricity by 2030 and is taking steps to support a just transition for coal workers and communities.

  • Wind and solar generation costs in Canada have declined 71 percent and 90 percent respectively since 2009.

  • In Canada’s strengthened climate plan, A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, Canada committed to achieving a net-zero emissions clean-electricity standard before 2050.

Associated links

Contacts

Moira Kelly
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
819-271-6218
moira.kelly@canada.ca

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)
ec.media.ec@canada.ca

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