A Global Alliance to Phase Out Coal Forms at COP23

In the same week Trump Administration officials tried to convince negotiators at the global COP23 climate conference that more coal use was needed, a global alliance of over two dozen countries, provinces, states and cities has formed to declare a phase-out of coal. Talk about a mic drop.

This global Powering Past Coal Alliance was launched just three days after a much-ridiculed event hosted by the Trump Administration touting fossil fuels – which many observers noted was a mockery of real efforts to deal with climate change. As former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg noted, the Administration’s actions were like showing up to a cancer summit to promote tobacco. (Not surprisingly, US and international participants at the Trump Administration's pro-coal session staged a song and walkout in protest of the event on Monday.)

And only three days after that event and walkout, the United Kingdom and Canada were joined by dozens of new partners in the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The countries, provinces, states and cities who joined include Alberta, Angola, Austria, Belgium, British Columbia, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Fiji, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Ontario, Oregon, Portugal, Quebec, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Vancouver, and Washington

The Alliance noted the negative health effects of air pollution from burning coal, such as respiratory diseases and premature deaths, which have massive costs in both human and economic terms. The Alliance also noted that 800,000 people die each year around the world from the pollution generated by burning coal – as important reasons to work towards a global coal phase-out.

The signatories committed to phasing out coal power that produces carbon emissions and supporting clean power policies and investments, while restricting financing for coal plants. To achieve these goals, the participants will share real-world examples and best practices on how to phase-out of coal, scale up climate financing, and develop clean energy plans and targets. There are many lessons which can be shared. For instance, the UK has transitioned from getting 40 percent of its electricity from coal in 2012 to getting only 2 percent of its electricity from coal in July 2017. That’s a massive decrease in the span of only five years. In fact, in April 2017 the UK had its first full day without coal use in 135 years.

So what’s next? The Alliance hopes to expand from 25 to 50 partners by the COP24 climate conference next year. The US states of Oregon and Washington have already joined the alliance. With several other states in the U.S. already coal-free, having leaders of other U.S. states join this alliance could be a vital opportunity for us to demonstrate that Americans are “still in” the Paris Agreement, despite President Trump’s attempt to dismantle US climate policies.

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Related links: Statement from the “Powering Past Coal Alliance”

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About the Authors

Han Chen

Manager, Energy Policy, International Program
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