UK takes lead on phasing out coal-powered stations

International alliance launched at the United Nations climate change talks

The UK government has put itself at odds with Donald Trump by taking the lead on forming a global coalition to phase out coal-powered stations not fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance, which was launched at the United Nations climate change talks COP23 yesterday (17 November) by the UK and Canada.

A total of 25 countries, cities and states have signed up to the alliance, which plans to expand its membership to more than 50 by next year’s COP24 event.

The alliance’s three-point declaration commits government that sign up to phase out non-CCS fitted traditional coal power stations within their jurisdictions and impose a moratorium on new ones.

They are also committed to supporting clean power through their own policies and investments, and to restrict financing for traditional coal power without CCS.

At its first meeting, the alliance agreed that shifting from coal-fired electricity is one of the most important steps the international community can take to meet the 2015 Paris climate change accord.

To prevent runaway increases in temperatures, OECD and EU countries must cease using coal for electricity generation by 2030, according to an analysis funded by the European Climate Foundation.

The British government has already committed to ending by 2025 the use of unabated coal power, which only contributed 2 per cent of UK electricity generation in July.

However the formation of the alliance puts the UK at loggerheads with US president Trump who has pledged to restore his nation’s coal industry.

Claire Perry, minister for climate change, 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.”

Responding to the announcement, Christian Aid international climate lead Mohamed Adow said that Trump’s hostility to the Paris agreement had galvanised other nations to take action on fossil fuel use.

He said: “People were worried that this summit would see Trump assaulting the Paris Agreement with his coal lobbyists. But his actions have actually galvanised other nations into action, with a new alliance making it clear that coal's climate change threat must be taken seriously.

"The bottom line is coal is a dirty, unnecessary, polluting fuel that deserves to remain in a more ignorant and backward era. These countries are showing they understand that."

As well as the UK and Canada, France and Italy have also signed up from the G8 group of leading economies. The list of 25 signatories also includes the low-lying Marshall Islands and the US state of Washington. 

The announcement comes ahead of the launch of the UK government’s industrial strategy, which will feature steps to promote clean growth. 

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