While the pledge to phase out coal gained the support of 23 more countries at the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, big users of coal, the dirtiest of fuels, shunned the move.
The COP26 summit aims to find ways to keep the rise of global temperature to 2.7 Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius).
A study shows carbon dioxide emissions have returned to near pre-pandemic levels.
Greenhouse gases emitted from the burning coal are the single largest contributor to climate change; weaning the world’s energy industry off coal will significantly contribute to achieving global climate targets.
Countries including the United States, China, Australia and India did not support the pledge to drop coal. These countries have nearly 50% of the global coal fired plants and plan on building more.
In 2020, carbon dioxide emissions fell by 5.4% as economies ground to a halt; however a report by Global Carbon Project has forecast a 4.9% rebound in emissions in 2021.
“We were expecting to see some rebound,” reads the report’s lead author Pierre Friedlingstein, a climate modelling researcher at the University of Exeter. “What surprised us was the intensity and rapidity.”
According to the United Nations, a rise of the world’s temperature above 1.5C would trigger significant catastrophes, compared to the current intensifying storms, heatwaves, droughts and floods which are becoming routine recently.
“I think we can say that the end of coal is in sight,” said Alok Sharma, British president of the two-week summit, detailing the pledge to phase out existing coal-fuelled power plants and to stop building new ones.
He went on to add, the non-binding pledge “has 77 signatories, including 46 countries, such as Poland, Vietnam, and Chile, 23 of which are making commitments on ending coal for the first time”.
Incidentally, wealthier countries did not meet their 2020 deadline for delivering $100 billion a year in “climate finance”.
“We need to have funding to retire coal earlier and to build the new capacity of renewable energy,” said Indonesia’s finance minister, Sri Mulyani Indrawati.
COP26 aims to get promises from countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and set the world on a clear path towards capping the rise in global temperature, which is already up 1.1C since pre-industrial times.