The UN climate summit in Bonn, Germany, has seen 19 countries getting together to commit quick phasing out of coal in a new alliance. It is being expected that this is the signal of the end of the dirtiest fossil fuel which produces about 40% of the world’s electricity and therefore this alliance is being greeted as being a “political watershed”.
The Powering Past Coal Alliance saw Mexico, New Zealand, Denmark and Angola being latest countries to take the pledge and the alliance has been led by UK and Canada.
“The case against coal is unequivocal,” said UK climate minister Claire Perry. “The alliance will signal to the world that the time of coal has passed.” Since 2012, the coal based electricity generated in the UK has fallen from 40% to 2% and despite this the UK was the first country to pledge end of coal use by 2025.
“There is a human cost and an environmental cost but we don’t need to pay that price when the price of renewables has plummeted,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister. “I’m thrilled to see so much global momentum for the transition to clean energy – and this is only the beginning.” Possessing 50 members by next year is the aim of the alliance.
Claiming that this was a clean growth century, McKenna identified that compared to about 50,000 people employed in coal, 250,000 people have already been employed in the renewable energy sector in the US. This was said in relation to a question about Donald Trump’s US administration promoting coal at the Bonn summit. “The market has moved on coal”, McKenna said.
Mohamed Adow, at Christian Aid, said: “It is a rebuke to Trump from the UK and Canada, two of America’s closest allies.”
The new alliance saw no participation from any Asian country – the largest users of coal, and has some countries that have nothing to do with coal such as Fiji. However, Nick Mabey, chief executive of the E3G thinktank, said: “The launch of this new alliance is a political watershed moment. Governments have now grasped the reality that coal use can end, and fast. The only way for coal is down.”
“We welcome the first steps countries have taken today but this is only the start”, said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who led the UN climate talks in Peru in 2014 and is now at WWF.
The most vulnerable states have welcomed the alliance. “I can’t stress enough that coal is by far the largest single barrier to staying within 1.5C of warming, and giving vulnerable countries like mine a chance of survival,” said David Paul, environment minister from the Marshall Islands.
Greenpeace UK lauded the alliance, but Rachel Kennerley, from Friends of the Earth UK, said: “It’s a profound disconnect that the UK is positioning itself as a climate leader but simultaneously green-lighting fracking, which will open up a whole new fossil industry.”
(Adapted from The Guardian)