Time for coal has passed, UK Government says as green alliance launched

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Coal’s time has passed, the UK Government said as it joined Canada to launch a global alliance to drive efforts to phase out the polluting fossil fuel.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance, launched at the latest round of United Nations climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, warns of the urgent need to speed up the move away from burning coal to cleaner power sources.

More than 20 countries and states including Italy, France, Belgium and Mexico have joined and there are plans to increase membership to at least 50 by this time next year.

Campaigners welcomed the move, which they said was a “rebuke” to US President Donald Trump, whose officials have tried to promote coal at this year’s climate talks.

Members of the alliance are committing to action including setting targets for phasing out coal and making no further investments in coal-fired electricity in their areas or abroad.

The UK has confirmed it will phase out polluting coal power by 2025, and the British grid has seen coal drop to historic lows, including, in April, the first full day without the fossil fuel since it was first used to generate power in the 19th century.

Coal emits twice as much carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas driving climate change, as gas per unit of electricity, and vastly more than low-carbon technologies such wind, solar and nuclear power.

The amount of electricity generated by coal has fallen 80% in four years and the UK has halved carbon pollution from each unit of power.

Climate change and industry minister Claire Perry 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.”

Environmental campaigners said the move is vital to keep climate change from reaching dangerous levels.

Protester holding sign calling for end to coal
A protester at UN climate talks in Bonn holds a sign demanding end to coal burning  (Martin Meissner/AP)

Greenpeace UK head of energy Hannah Martin said Britain had a success story to tell on moving away from coal, with the carbon price floor – a charge on pollution from energy generators – helping drive the change.

“Philip Hammond should use next week’s Budget to confirm this tax on climate-warming pollution will remain in place so Britain can keep building a clean energy system, bringing jobs, energy security and business opportunities for the future,” she said.

Stephen Cornelius from WWF said: “The UK started the industrial revolution and for well over a century coal was a major source of power – but it is now no longer needed.

“The science on coal is clear – we know that for our health, for our economy, and to limit the worst effects of climate change we must move towards a world free from this dangerous fuel.”

Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s international climate lead, said: “This climate meeting has seen Donald Trump trying to perversely promote coal but it will finish with the UK, Canada and a host of other countries signalling the death knell of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel in their countries.

“It is a rebuke to Donald Trump from the UK and Canada, two of America’s closest allies, that his obsession for dirty energy will not spread.”

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