Coal is being consigned to history at COP26, as countries, banks and organisations move away from the single biggest contributor to climate change.
At least 23 nations made new commitments to phase out coal power, including Poland and Ukraine. In a new Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement, countries also committed to scaling up clean power and ensuring a just transition away from coal.
These announcements follow a collapse in the financing of coal, as developed nations have pledged new support to help developing countries make the transition to clean energy.
Ukraine has committed to ending coal power by 2035, while massively investing in renewables and ensuring a just transition for workers and communities. It is a major step for a country that has the third-largest coal fleet in Europe after Germany and Poland. DTEK, the biggest private investor in Ukraine’s energy sector is also joining the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA), committing to powering operations without coal by 2040.
“Ukraine is moving towards the decarbonisation of the energy sector, in particular, complete decommissioning of coal-fired thermal power plants, as well as a significant increase in renewable generation,” said German Galuschenko, Minister of Energy of Ukraine. “This objective, however, requires developing highly-flexible and low-carbon generation, as well as integration of energy markets of Ukraine and the EU. In this context, we are working with our international partners to attract investment, technology and expertise.”
To join the Alliance also several subnational governments and utilities from coal-dependent countries. These include the Polish cities of Wałbrzych, a former mining centre with a 2030 coal phase-out commitment and Koszalin, one of the greenest cities in Poland.
“For more than 500 years, Walbrzych had been known as a coal-mining centre,” said Roman Szełemej, Mayor of Walbrzych. “Now we join the PPCA to move from coal to clean energy. In 2019, we committed to eliminating coal as a source of heat and electricity in 2030. It will require good planning, determination and funds, but we are convinced that we can reach this goal.”
Banks and financial institutions also made landmark commitments at COP26 to end the funding of unabated coal, including major international lenders like HSBC, Fidelity International and Ethos. This follows recent announcements from China, Japan and South Korea to end overseas coal financing which now means all significant public international financing for coal power has effectively ended.
In addition, a group of 25 countries have signed a UK-led joint statement committing to ending international public support for the unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022 and instead prioritising support for the clean energy transition. Collectively, this could shift an estimated 17.8 billion US dollars a year in public support out of fossil fuels and into the clean energy transition.
This is a historic step. It is the first time a COP presidency has prioritised this issue and put a bold end date on international fossil fuel finance.
“From the start of the UK’s Presidency, we have been clear that COP26 must be the COP that consigns coal to history,” said COP26 President, Alok Sharma. “With these ambitious commitments we are seeing today, the end of coal power is now within sight. Securing a 190-strong coalition to phase out coal power and end support for new coal power plants and the Just Transition Declaration signed today, show a real international commitment to not leave any nation behind. Together we can accelerate access to electricity for more than three-quarters of a billion people who currently lack access, consigning energy poverty to history as we create the clean power future needed to keep 1.5 alive.”
Photo: Karwai Tang/UK Government