Coal phase-out: the Powering Past Coal Alliance

In fall 2017, Canada co-founded the Powering Past Coal Alliance to help accelerate clean growth and climate protection through the rapid phase-out of traditional coal-fired electricity.

Canada and the United Kingdom successfully launched the alliance at the United Nations’ 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23), in Bonn, Germany. At its launch, 27 national, provincial, state, and city governments endorsed the declaration to support the rapid phase-out of traditional coal power. As of April 9, 2018, the number of Alliance members has grown to over 60.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance brings together a diverse range of governments, businesses, and organizations, which are united in taking action to accelerate the phase-out of traditional coal power. Alliance partners commit to achieving this phase-out in a sustainable and economically inclusive way, while providing appropriate support for workers and communities.

“Phasing out coal power is good news for the climate, for our health, and for our kids. I’m thrilled to see so much global momentum for the transition to clean energy and the move away from coal power—and this is only the beginning.”

Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Canada

“Reducing global coal consumption should be a vital and urgent priority for all countries and states. Unabated coal is the dirtiest, most polluting way of generating electricity. The Powering Past Coal Alliance will signal to the world that the time of coal has passed. The UK is committed to completely phasing out unabated coal-fire power generation no later than 2025 and we hope to inspire others to follow suit.”

Claire Perry, Minister for Climate Change and Industry, United Kingdom

HON. CATHERINE MCKENNA (Minister of Environment and Climate Change): We have to be ambitious, we know this. And we need to take concrete actions, and this is exactly what you’re seeing here right now.

CLAIRE PERRY (UK Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry): This isn’t a pilot project. This feels like a very firm commitment being made by many, many countries and players. Nathan Obed (President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami): This coal phase-out will have very positive impacts for Canadian Inuit, and for the Arctic as a whole.

Nicolas Hulot (French Minister of Ecological and Solidary Transition): I just want to thank Canada and also the United Kingdom for this initiative, gathering those countries which want to leave coal behind. We will also do the same.

Dr. Courtney Howard (President-Elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment): Tackling climate change could be the biggest global health opportunity of the 21st century.

Jean Lemire (Émissaire du quebec aux changements climatiques et aux enjeux nordiques et arctiques): Pollution has no frontiers, so let’s work together and make this alliance a great, great signal to the rest of the world.

Why we are powering past coal

Coal is one of the most greenhouse-gas intensive means of generating electricity, and coal-fired power plants still account for almost 40 percent of the world’s electricity today. 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 that can be taken to tackle climate change and meet our Paris Agreement commitment to keeping global temperature from increasing by 2 °C and pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. An analysis shows that, to meet this commitment, a coal phase-out is needed by no later than by 2030, in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and in the European Union, and by no later than by 2050, in the rest of the world.

The air-pollution impacts from burning coal are also considerable. They include smog, asthma, respiratory diseases, premature deaths, and massive health care and economic costs due to lost worker productivity. A recent analysis has 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 in human health and longevity.

“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

"The Powering Past Coal Alliance beautifully exemplifies the kind of mounting collective action on climate that countries need to take throughout 2018 as an ambition-raising year. Canada and the UK are right to kickstart the Alliance, as science tells us OECD countries need to phase coal out by 2030 at the latest. Their efforts also reflect the economic reality that coal is on the decline and the age of renewable energy is upon us. I look forward to Canada's leadership in this global alliance being matched by real emissions reductions at home, and partnered with a commitment to just transition for workers and communities."

Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada

Canada’s actions at home to powering past coal

In the fall of 2016, Canada committed to a phase-out of traditional coal-fired electricity, by 2030. Canada will publish updated coal regulations in the months ahead, which will help reduce Canada’s reliance on coal; support its goal of 90 percent non-emitting electricity, by 2030; and meet its climate change commitments. These efforts are part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Canada’s plan—developed with provinces, territories, and Indigenous Peoples—to reduce emissions and grow the economy.

Phasing out traditional coal-fired electricity stimulates growth, provides access to new markets, and creates well-paying jobs for canadians. Canada COP23. BONN, Germany 2017
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