The United States, represented by John Kerry, the special presidential envoy on climate matters, has announced its commitment to cease the construction of new coal-fired power plants and eliminate existing ones.
“We will be working to accelerate unabated coal phase-out across the world, building stronger economies and more resilient communities,” Kerry said in a statement. “The first step is to stop making the problem worse: stop building new unabated coal power plants.”
The announcement was made at the United Nations COP28 climate change summit in Dubai, where the United States officially joined the Power Past Coal Alliance, a coalition of 56 nations dedicated to abandoning coal in efforts to achieve a 100% carbon pollution-free electricity goal by 2035.
Alden Meyer, a climate analyst at the European think-tank E3G, notes that with coal power plants shutting down across the country due to market forces, and the lack of any new coal facilities currently being built, “we were heading to retiring coal by the end of the decade anyway.” Natural gas and renewable energy are now cheaper to produce.
As of October, only about 20% of US electricity was coal-powered according to data from the Department of Energy. Natural gas took almost twice that at 40%, while renewables were at 21% total. Nuclear power, meanwhile, accounted for 18%.
The Power Past Coal Alliance, established six years ago and initially comprising 50 members, welcomed new additions, including the United States, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Iceland, Kosovo, and Norway, bringing the total to 56.
The alliance, referencing the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Roadmap, stressed the need for advanced economies to cease new coal power plant construction immediately and phase out existing plants by 2030 and 2040, respectively, to align with the 1.5°C goal set in the Paris Agreement.
Globally, coal-fired plants accounted for 36% of electricity generation in 2022, with China leading at over 50%. Despite climate pledges, China accelerated coal power projects in 2022, with a notable 50% increase in construction starts compared to 2021. India, the second-largest consumer of coal, also witnessed a 14% rise in coal demand in 2021, according to the IEA’s “Coal 2022” report.
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