Coal phase-out: the Powering Past Coal Alliance

The Powering Past Coal Alliance was created to help accelerate clean growth and climate protection by rapidly phasing-out traditional coal-fired electricity. It was founded by Canada and the United Kingdom.

At its launch in fall 2017, 27 national, provincial, state, and city governments recognized the need to shift away from traditional coal power and endorsed the declaration. As of March 2021, the number of Alliance members has grown to over 120.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance brings together all levels of government, businesses, and organizations, united in taking action to advance the transition away from traditional coal power generation. Alliance members commit to achieving this phase-out in a sustainable and economically inclusive way, while providing appropriate support for workers and communities.

Why we are powering past coal

Action on climate change

Coal is one of the most greenhouse-gas-intensive sources of electricity. Coal-fired power plants account for almost 40% of the world’s electricity. This reality makes carbon pollution from coal electricity a leading contributor to climate change.

As a result, phasing out traditional coal power is one of the most important steps in tackling climate change and meeting the Paris Agreement commitment. This will help keep global temperature from increasing by 2 °C and further pursuing to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. An analysis shows that, to meet this commitment, a coal phase-out is needed by:

  • 2030 in countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union
  • 2050 in the rest of the world

Health impacts

The air pollution impacts from burning coal are also considerable. They include:

  • smog
  • asthma
  • respiratory diseases
  • premature deaths
  • massive health care and economic costs due to lost worker productivity

A recent analysis found that more than 800,000 people around the world die each year from the pollution generated by burning coal. A phase-out of coal will mean real improvements in air quality and human health.

Join the Alliance

The Alliance is looking for governments, businesses and organizations committed to helping phase out the use of unabated coal power. Learn more about private-sector participation: how to join, commitments, governance, and more.

How Canada is taking action

New regulations

In December 2018, Canada announced regulations to phase-out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030 as well as greenhouse gas regulations for natural gas-fired electricity. This will:

  • support Canada’s transition to cleaner energy
  • create well-paying jobs in the electricity sector
  • support the goal of 90% non-emitting electricity by 2030

Canada’s coal phase-out efforts are already making a difference. For example, the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants in Ontario reduced the number of annual smog days in the province from 53 to zero.

Just Transition Task Force

In Canada’s clean growth and climate change plan, the Government acknowledges the importance of a just and fair transition to support Canadian workers. In an effort to better understand the impacts of phasing out coal and to support those affected, Canada launched the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities in 2018.  The Task Force’s report, was published in early 2019 and provides expert advice that will help shape Canada’s approach to assisting coal workers and communities affected by the transition to cleaner electricity.

Canada Coal Transition Initiative

Canada is already taking steps to support coal workers and communities. In November 2018, we announced the Canada Coal Transition Initiative. It made its first investment to establish transition centres in seven communities in the Battle River Region of Alberta, to help keep Canadians in well-paying jobs. We also announced funding for the first geothermal power facility near Estevan, Saskatchewan, a community that will bear the impact of the coal phase-out. The project will:

  • create 100 jobs during construction
  • provide the provincial power grid with clean, renewable energy
  • create new business opportunities for local communities

We will continue to make historic investments in the transition towards cleaner energy.

Map of coal-fired generating stations and thermal coal mines in Canada

Currently, the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia generate a significant portion of their electricity from coal. Many of these provinces also have thermal coal mines that are a fuel source for their coal power plants. Workers and communities from each industry will be impacted by Canada’s coal phase-out.

Helping developing countries

Internationally, Canada committed up to $275 million to the World Bank in December 2018 to create the Energy Transition and Coal Phase-Out Program. This program will assist a number of developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, to phase-out their dependence on traditional coal-fired electricity generation. At the same time, supporting energy-efficient and renewable-energy alternatives to power their fast-growing economies. The program will also mobilize private-sector financial resources for climate action, and provide training and employment opportunities for women in clean-energy sectors.

Quotes

Here's why environmental leaders around the world have committed to powering past coal:

“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.”

Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Canada

“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

“The energy transition we need to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement is already underway, but we need to move with greater speed and at scale. Pollution from fossil fuels is endangering our health and threatening growth and development. Moving away from coal, the most polluting of traditional energy sources, has to be a priority in the energy plans of those who have joined the Paris Agreement. Commitments from countries that speed up the transition are important and welcome. In this way we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on time.”

Rachel Kyte, CEO, Sustainable Energy for All

“The launch of this new Alliance is a political watershed moment. Governments have now grasped the reality that coal use can end, and fast. Energy markets are now in favour of rapid action. The only way for coal is down. Alliance members have a powerful combination of real world experience and diplomatic influence. Their collective leadership will further accelerate the transition from dirty coal to clean energy.”

Nick Mabey, Chief Executive of E3G

“Estimates are that almost one quarter of ambient air pollution globally is due to coal. That means that coal is responsible for almost 1 million deaths each year, making it by far the most polluting fossil fuel, and the single most important energy-related source of disease and death in the world today. Reducing and phasing out the use of coal around the world will not only help achieve a cleaner environment. It will also save millions of lives.”

Maureen A. McTeer, University of Ottawa and Member of Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health

“Royal DSM started off as a coal mining company, transformed to a chemical company, to become the innovative, science-based company – thriving in health, nutrition and materials – that we are today. DSM reduces its environmental footprint of its own operations, enables a low-carbon economy through its solutions for customers, and advocates key leadership initiatives like this statement. Already since the Paris climate conference (COP21) in 2015, DSM has advocated the need to reform fossil fuel subsidies, and to put a meaningful price on carbon. An accelerated phase-out of coal by this group of governments by 2030 will only serve as a necessary complementary policy.”

Feike Sijbesma, CEO Royal DSM and co-chair of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition

“The global alliance launched by Canada and the UK is a fantastic example of the leadership we need to win the race against climate change. Not only have these two countries understood the importance of a coal phase-out for their citizens’ health, their economies, and the climate as a whole—they have also inspired others to join their effort. This is the true spirit of the Paris Agreement, and it is alliances like this that give me confidence that we can win this race.”

Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation
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