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Coal power generation is the single biggest cause of global temperature increase. The efforts to transition away from coal must accelerate to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change, say UK energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng and Canada’s climate change minister Jonathan Wilkinson, co-chairs of the Powering Past Coal Alliance.

Jonathan Wilkinson (Canada’s climate change minister, left) and Kwasi Kwarteng (UK energy minister)

The covid-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to increase momentum in halting the use of coal

Three years ago, the UK and Canada came together to launch the Powering Past Coal Alliance to bring together governments and the private sector to accelerate the phase out of unabated coal power.

Since then, the coalition has grown to more than 110 members, including countries, cities, regions and businesses around the world. The Alliance’s strength is its diversity: 34 national governments from virtually every corner of the globe, 34 sub-national governments, and 44 organisations ranging from financial institutions to energy producers and consumers. Recently our cohort of leaders from the financial sector has expanded, as the sector increasingly considers climate risks in their spending decisions.

The Coalition has seen significant growth over these past three years in its reach and influence. Through the extensive expertise of our network, the Alliance has helped ensure that one-third of coal capacity within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is scheduled to close by 2030 through retirement commitments and phase out policies.

Global momentum is building in support of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ calls for no new coal, an end to coal finance, and a more rapid phase out of existing coal plants. There are promising signs, for example in the UK, where coal accounted for as much as 40% of electricity in 2012, the sector is on track to end the use of unabated coal power in just four years. The UK and Canada are partners in driving the low-carbon agenda. The UK Prime Minister recently launched an ambitious ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, covering clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies, and Canada will soon follow suit by announcing additional measures to not only meet—but exceed—its Paris Agreement climate target.

Alongside the ambitious ten-point plan, the UK has identified energy transition as a priority under its COP26 Presidency. Coal phase out will be a central area of focus. COP26 President Alok Sharma has invited world leaders to join the COP26 Energy Transition Council, a key forum to advance our collective ambition in the lead up to COP26.

While we celebrate the milestone of a third anniversary and our progress of these past three years, the PPCA must look to the future. Our mission has never been more urgent. As we approach COP26 in Glasgow next year, we know we must do more.

While a transition away from unabated coal power is underway, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it is moving too slowly to keep global temperature rise to less than 2°C. To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the shift to clean power needs to progress four times faster than our current pace.

The IEA has found that CO2 emitted from coal combustion is responsible for over a third of the 1°C in global average annual surface temperatures above pre-industrial levels. This makes coal the largest source of global temperature increase.

The fight against climate change is at a pivotal moment. The last decade was the hottest ever recorded and people around the world are feeling the effects of a warming climate in their communities. Devastating impacts of climate change, including wildfires, hurricanes and drought have become more severe and common, a trend that will continue without swift and ambitious action. Young people the world over are calling on their governments to act. They are concerned about their futures. As are we.

But we are also hopeful. While the covid-19 pandemic has created tremendous loss and uncertainty all around the world, it has also provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back better. The two crises—covid-19 and climate change—carry similar lessons: the faster we take action, the better we can protect our families, our communities, and our economies.

To succeed in the fight against climate change, we must continue to work together across governments, industry sectors and civil society. We must partner with the financial sector to expand the range of clean energy options available to developing countries. And we need to end public and private coal finance altogether.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance stands ready to support governments in shaping and implementing recovery plans fueled by clean electricity in place of coal. Our members help make progress in some of the most fundamental areas in the transition away from coal, including coal financing, utility and grid transformation, and a just transition for affected communities.

By working together we can and will phase out unabated coal power and by so doing help ensure future generations have cleaner air, healthier communities and a sustainable planet for generations to come.

This article was originally published by FORESIGHT Climate & Energy on 8th December 2020.

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