A report has urged countries to close all coal plants by 2040 or face ‘climate chaos’.
The world needs to phase out coal five times faster than it currently is to prevent “climate chaos”, according to a new report.
Around the world, more than 2,400 coal-fired plants are still up and running.
A new report by US NGO Global Energy Monitor says all of these must shut by 2040 and no new plants can open if countries want to meet their Paris Agreement climate goals.
The world is not currently on track to meet these goals, warns Flora Champenois, the lead author of the report and project manager for Global Energy Monitor’s global coal plant tracker.
“At this rate, the transition away from existing and new coal isn’t happening fast enough to avoid climate chaos,” she says.
“The more new coal projects come online, the steeper the cuts and commitments need to be in the future.”
Which countries are building more coal-fired plants?
Coal combustion produced 14.98 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021 - equivalent to the annual emissions generated by 3.3 billion cars. This is double the amount of cars currently exist making the fossil fuel a key driver of global warming.
At COP26, summit President Alok Sharma urged delegates to “consign coal to history.”
Some countries have taken action. The US shut 13.5 gigawatt of coal-powered energy capacity last year.
A gigawatt is one billion watts, or a thousand megawatts. A typical coal plant has energy capacity of around 600 megawatts.
The EU shut down 2.2GW of coal capacity last year - down from 14.6 GW the year before. The slowdown comes as the bloc struggled to keep energy prices low following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Overall, the amount of operating and planned coal power plants fell both in developed and developing countries excluding China in 2022.
But China’s massively increased its coal fleet.
“Globally, the operating coal fleet grew by 19.5 GW, or less than 1 per cent, in 2022,” the report declares.
“More than half (59 per cent) of the 45.5 GW of newly commissioned capacity was in China.”
Overall, countries closed 26 gigawatts of coal power capacity in 2022. However, the increase in China ‘far offset’ these closures - leading to the one per cent rise.
How fast do we need to phase out coal?
Phasing out operating coal power by 2040 will require an average of 117 GW of retirements per year, the report warns.
“[This is] four and a half times the capacity retired last year,” the authors write.
“An average of 60 GW must come offline in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries each year to meet their 2030 coal phaseout deadline, and for non-OECD countries, 91 GW each year for their 2040 deadline.
“Accounting for coal plants under construction and in consideration (537 GW) would require even steeper cuts.”
The report also called for accelerated investment in clean energy to cope with the phase out of coal.