End of coal within sight as countries commit to clean power transition


A transition to clean energy and the rapid phase-out of coal has been at the heart of the COP26 presidency as part of its efforts to minimise temperature rises in line with the Paris Agreement. The breadth of commitments in Glasgow on Energy Day have signalled that the world is moving away from coal and towards a renewable future. 

At least 23 nations made new commitments to phase out coal power, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Poland, South Korea, Egypt, Spain, Nepal, Singapore, Chile and Ukraine.  In a new ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement’, countries also committed to scaling up clean power and ensuring a just transition away from coal.   

The announcements follow a collapse in the financing of coal, as developed nations have pledged new support to help developing countries make the transition to clean energy.  

Banks and financial institutions also made landmark commitments at COP26 to end the funding of unabated coal, including major international lenders like HSBC, Fidelity International and Ethos.  

China, Japan and South Korea also announced their intention to end overseas coal financing, which now means all significant public international financing for coal power will come to an end. 

In addition, a group of 25 countries including COP26 partners Italy, Canada, the United States and Denmark, together with public finance institutions, have signed a UK-led joint statement committing to ending international public support for the unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022 and instead prioritising support for the clean energy transition.  

Collectively, this could shift an estimated $17.8 billion a year in public support out of fossil fuels and into the clean energy transition. Developing countries including Ethiopia, Fiji and the Marshall Islands offered their support, signalling growing unity. This is an inclusive agenda that must recognise the development and energy needs of all economies. 

28 new members also signed up to the world’s largest alliance on phasing out coal. The Powering Past Coal Alliance, launched and co-chaired by the UK and Canada, added new members including Chile and Singapore, joining more than 160 countries, sub-nationals and businesses.  

And 20 new countries, including Vietnam, Morocco and Poland committed to building no new coal plants, matching similar announcements over the past year by Pakistan, Malaysia and the Philippines, and building on the No New Coal Power Compact launched in September by Sri Lanka, Chile, Montenegro and European partners. 

There has been a 76 per cent drop in the number of new coal plants planned globally over the last six years since the Paris Agreement was adopted. This equates to the cancellation of more than 1000GW of new coal plants. 

“It is really promising to see so many countries formally committing to move away from coal in the medium term,” Amit Gudka, Founder of Field said. “The next step for these nations is to make detailed, time-bound commitments to setting up the renewable infrastructure that will make this transition possible. A crucial part of that will be investing in energy storage, which is the key to solving the problem of intermittency, and enabling them to create a reliable, flexible and green grid.” 

COP26 president, Alok Sharma said: “From the start of the UK’s Presidency, we have been clear that COP26 must be the COP that consigns coal to history.  With these ambitious commitments, the end of coal power is now within sight. 

“Securing a 190-strong coalition to phase out coal power and end support for new coal power plants, and the Just Transition Declaration, show a real international commitment to not leave any nation behind. 

“Together we can accelerate access to electricity for more than three quarters of a billion people who currently lack access, consigning energy poverty to history as we create the clean power future needed to keep 1.5 alive.” 

Gonzalo Muñoz and Nigel Topping, High Level Climate Action Champions said: “With 80 per cent growth in their capacity commitment—from 25 to 45 gigawatts of electrolysis—in one year, the Green Hydrogen Catapult and its members demonstrate the near-term potential for exponential growth in green hydrogen, enabled by local and global policy support and rapidly growing customer interest. 

“It is fantastic to see the ambition in renewables deployment, with Race to Zero members committing to reaching over 750GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2030. This will only grow as more energy companies join the Race to Zero emissions, and decarbonisation ambitions continue to increase, reflecting the exponential progress we have seen to date in the sector.” 

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