Countries pledge to phase out climate-responsible coal



GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) – In the fight against climate change, several major coal-using nations on Thursday announced measures to wean themselves – sometimes slowly – from heavily polluting fossil fuels.

Pledges to phase out coal come on top of other pledges made at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which the head of an international energy organization said cut by several tenths of degree projections of future warming. But outside experts called it “optimistic.”

Optimism also abounded regarding promises over coal, which has the dirtiest carbon footprint of any major fuel and is a major source of global warming emissions.

“Today, I think it can be said that the end of coal is in sight,” said Alok Sharma, who chairs the conference of nearly 200 nations, known as COP26.

Critics say the vision is still clouded by a lot of smoke as several major economies have yet to set a date to end their dependence on fuel, including the United States, China, the United States, China. India and Japan – which was targeted outside of the summit venue on Thursday. by demonstrators dressed in animated characters.

What the nations have promised varies. Some have pledged to stop coal altogether at a future date, while others say they will stop building new plants, and even more, including China, are talking about simply stopping funding for new plants in the future. coal abroad.

The UK government said promises of new or earlier deadlines to end the use of coal came from more than 20 countries, including Ukraine, Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia and Chile.

Some have come with notable caveats, like Indonesia asking for more help before committing to push its deadline to the 2040s.

Meanwhile, Poland, the second largest user of coal in Europe after Germany, appeared to reverse any ambitious new commitments within hours of the announcement.

“Energy security and job security are a priority for us,” said Anna Moskwa, Polish Minister of Climate and Environment, in a tweet, citing the government’s existing plan which “foresees a departure from coal by 2049 “. Earlier today, it looked like Poland could move that deadline forward by at least a decade.

The activists reacted angrily to the apparent U-turn.

“Moskwa stressed that his government cannot be trusted to sign a postcard, let alone a responsible climate commitment,” said Kathrin Gutmann, campaign manager of the Europe Beyond Coal group.

In addition, more than two dozen countries, cities and companies have joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, whose members pledge to end the use of coal by 2030, for developed countries, and at the latest. in 2050 for developing countries. Member banks pledge not to grant loans for the worst types of coal-fired power plants.

Meanwhile, the United States, Canada, Denmark and several other countries have signed a different pledge to “prioritize” clean energy funding over fossil fuel projects overseas.

Without completely ruling out financial support for coal-fired power plants, countries have said they will withhold any “new direct government support” for coal, except in limited circumstances.

The move was seen as an important step by environmental activists, who said it could push international lenders to stop providing loans for new fossil fuel projects.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the thinking of those responsible, said that while the United States did not choose to join the coal phase-out commitments, its commitment to of a clean energy future was clear. The Biden administration wants to achieve 100% electricity without carbon pollution by 2035.

Highlighting the urgent need for action on coal, a new analysis by scientists at the Global Carbon Project has found that fuel emissions have increased significantly in 2021, not only from the 2020 levels hit by the pandemic, but even from pre-pandemic levels in 2019. The world released 14.7 billion tonnes (16.2 billion tonnes) of carbon dioxide from coal combustion, 5.7% more than a year last, said the group, which tracks annual carbon pollution.

This was mainly driven by a dramatic increase in China, which reached a new peak in coal emissions this year of 7.6 billion metric tons (8.4 billion tons) of carbon dioxide, more than the half of the world’s coal emissions, according to the report.

Still, experts said the announcement and others made so far at the summit showed growing momentum to ditch coal.

“Today’s commitments will help move entire continents on their journey to phase out coal,” said Dave Jones of energy think tank Ember.

Ukraine, the third largest consumer of coal in Europe, is bringing its coal deadline forward from 2050 to 2035.

Coal production in Ukraine has already declined significantly in recent years: from 40.9 million metric tons in 2016 to 28.8 million in 2020 (45 million tons to 32 million), according to the Energy Ministry .

The figures do not include production at the coal fields in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, which made up about half of Ukraine’s mines before the 2014 uprising.

“The progress on coal presented at COP26 demonstrates that the conditions are right for a global exit from coal,” said Leo Roberts, senior researcher at the E3G environmental think tank.

“We now need to see the massive increase in clean energy funding available quickly to ensure that all countries can confidently switch from coal to clean,” he added.

But some environmental activists said the pledges did not go far enough.

“Oil and gas emissions already far exceed coal and are booming, while coal is already entering a terminal decline,” said Murray Worthy of the Global Witness campaign group. “It is a small step forward when it was necessary to take a giant leap.”

The coal deals are not part of the formal negotiations of the UN talks in Glasgow. But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose country is hosting the conference, had said he wanted to see deals on coal, cars, trees and money.

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said on Thursday that a new analysis from the Paris-based body shows that the full achievement of all emission reduction commitments made in the previous days – including for the powerful greenhouse gas methane – could allow the world to limit the warning to 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The goal that countries set at a previous conference in Paris is to limit temperature increases to 1.5C (2.7F). A United Nations analysis showed that before Glasgow, the world was heading for an increase of 2.7 ° C (4.9 ° F), while other analyzes also showed warming in the mid to above range. 2 degrees.

Niklas Hohne, of the New Climate Institute and Climate Action Tracker, called Birol’s figure “optimistic” and noted that it was based on countries that had pledged to only emit what can be absorbed. – what are called net zero plans – when they have not yet implemented all the actions that would bring them there.


Associated Press editors Sylvia Hui in London and Ellen Knickmeyer in Glasgow, Scotland contributed.


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