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UK and Canada leads global charge to phase out coal generation at COP23

The UK working alongside Canada has launched an international alliance committing at least 25 nations and states to accelerate the phasing out of unabated coal power in favour of clean energy growth.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance was launched this week at COP23, the latest United Nations climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, and intends to lead the rest of the world in committing to an end to unabated coal power.

The members of the alliance commit to taking action such as setting coal phase out targets and committing to no further investments in coal-fired electricity in their jurisdictions or abroad. All partners must also commit to supporting clean power through their policies with either public or corporate initatives.

The UK announced its phase-out date for coal power to be 2025 in late 2015, reflecting the huge fall in use of the fossil fuel for generation, culminating in April when the UK experienced its first full day free from coal in 135 years.

Claire Perry, minister for climate change and industry, said: “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.”

Meanwhile, Canada announced in November 2016 that it would close its coal-fired power plants by 2030, with both countries now hoping to spark similar announcement in others while helping those already to have made the pledge to meet their ambitions.

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, added: “Phasing out coal power is good news for the climate, for our health, and for our kids. Coal is literally choking our cities, with close to a million people dying every year from coal pollution. I’m thrilled to see so much global momentum for the transition to clean energy – and this is only the beginning.”

The new coalition will work with businesses, civil society and governments to offer technical and practical help to accelerate the transition away from coal.

In its first meeting, the alliance agreed that transitioning away from coal-fired electricity is one of the most important steps the international community can take to meet the aims of the historic Paris agreement made two years ago. The COP21 climate accords require OECD countries across the world to phase out coal by 2030, with global use needing to reduce by two-thirds by 2040.

The alliance’s declaration states that coal-fired power plants produce almost 40% of global electricity today, making carbon pollution from coal a leading contributor to climate change and its removal from the global energy mix a priority.

Replacement clean technologies are already taking hold in the UK as they become more cost effective. Offshore wind, for example, is now half the cost it was two years ago and recently securing record low prices in the latest contracts for difference auction.

Similarly, solar has begun to be deployed subsidy free despite not being allowed to compete on a level playing field with other generation technologies.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance hopes to double its complement to 50 partners by next years COP24.