Alliance seeks 50 signatories to commit to ending reliance on high carbon power source by next year’s UN climate summit

The UK and Canada have joined with 25 other nations and regional states to launch a new global alliance aimed at phasing out coal-fired power and weaning the world off the most carbon intensive form of electricity generation.

The new group was officially launched on the sidelines of the COP23 Summit in Bonn on Tuesday, confirming that Mexico, France, Finland, New Zealand, Italy, and Denmark have all joined the alliance.

They were joined by 21 other signatories, including El Salvador, the US states of Washington and Oregon, and Canadian provinces Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario.

The aim of the Alliance is to gain 50 national and regional signatories by the time of next year’s UN climate change summit in Poland. Businesses are also being invited to formally signal their backing for the group and its goals.

UK climate change and industry minister Claire Perry said reducing 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,” she said in a statement. “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.”

Speaking at the launch in Bonn, Perry said she had been working with her Canadian counterpart – Catherine McKenna, minister for environment and climate change – for only a few weeks on building the Alliance, but it had already secured considerable support.

She stressed that the group was “not about telling others what to do”, but would instead aim to work with governments to develop coal phase out strategies that would prove effective for their economies.

“We said we’d start small and we’d aim to have 50 members by this time next year, but of course we may end up with many more members by that time,” she said.

According to Perry, the Alliance will focus on encouraging policies and businesses to phase out coal power, and on restricting finance for unabated coal stations in favour of lower carbon alternatives, and potentially even carbon capture, storage and utilisation (CCUS) technologies.

She also heralded the economic benefits and “astonishing” reduction in renewable power costs as major incentives for economies to phase out unabated coal power, pointing out that the UK had rapidly reduced its reliance on coal while also growing its economy over the past five years.

“This is not something that is a win-lose – it is a win-win situation,” she told the audience.

Perry also stressed that the alliance was not prompted by the Trump administration’s pro-coal rhetoric.

But the move is in stark contrast to the White House’s attempt to revive the domestic US coal sector and touting so-called ‘clean’ coal technologies as a viable energy technology for developing countries.

It comes just days after US officials held an open meeting at the UN climate summit in an attempt to push coal and nuclear power, despite a noisy protest and widespread derision from climate campaigners.

While the new coalition will work with businesses, civil society, and governments to offer technical and practical help to accelerate the transition away from coal, the Alliance said it recognised that not all countries can completely phase out the use of unabated coal at the same rate.

Also speaking at the launch, McKenna said the response to the Alliance so far had been “overwhelming”.

She highlighted how the billions of dollars of health costs associated with coal power fuerther strengthened the economic case for minimising reliance on the energy source.

“We don’t have to pay that price, especially when the costs of cleaner energy options have plummeted,” she said.

However, she also stressed that there needed to be a “just transition” to ensure workers in the coal sector were presented with new economic opportunities as the transition to cleaner energy continues.

“The market has moved, the world has moved,” said McKenna. “Coal is not coming back.”

The launch of the new group came in the same week as one of Australia’s largest banks, Commonwealth Bank, declared it was curbing its investment in new coal projects.

Ahead of its AGM today, the bank posted a speech from its chairwoman Catherine Livingstone in which she reiterated that the company regards climate change as a risk that needs addressing.

She added that the banks’s support for coal projects was “small and has been trending down for some time” and stressed that “we expect that trend to continue over time as we help finance the transition to a low-carbon economy”.

Credit: Business Green