COP26: “End of coal is in sight” – Alok Sharma

The COP26 president, Alok Sharma, declared this morning: “I do believe that the end of coal is in sight. I do believe that we are getting to a point we can consign coal power to history.”

Protest by No Coal Japan coalition outside the conference cordon. The group is demanding Japan end domestic coal and finance for overseas coal projects by 2030. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Speaking at the opening session of a day devoted to energy at the climate talks, he said a brighter future was coming closer, with cleaner air, cheaper power and “good green jobs”.

Mr Sharma’s speech came as the UK government announced 190 countries and organisations had made commitments to phase out coal power.

They include the first commitments by 18 countries to phase out and not build or invest in new coal power, among them Poland, Vietnam and Chile.

More than 40 countries have agreed to phase out coal-fired power, the dirtiest form of electricity. The bigger economies will do this in the 2030s and the rest of the world in the 2040s.

But some of the biggest coal-based economies, including Australia, China, India and the US, have not signed up.

Decarbonisation of the power sector was central to efforts at COP26 to keep alive the limit on global temperature rise of 1.5C.

UK energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, at COP26 on 4 November 2021. Photo: Livestream

The UK energy secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said:

“Today marks a milestone moment in our global efforts to tackle climate change, as nations from all corners of the world unite in Glasgow to declare that coal has no part to play in our future power generation.

“Today’s ambitious commitments made by our international partners demonstrate that the end of coal is in sight.”

But the shadow energy secretary, Ed Miliband said there were “glaring gaps” in the news.

“Any progress towards powering past coal is welcome, but glaring gaps remain. There is no commitment from large emitters like China to stop increasing coal at home, and nothing on the phase-out of other fossil fuels.

“Whether it’s flirting with a new coal mine or licensing a massive oil field here at home, too often the government has been looking both ways on climate. Rather than driving the ambition we need, as COP President the government has let others off the hook.

“We need to phase out fossil fuels and ensure a just transition for workers. Labour’s Climate Investment Pledge would build the alternative – decarbonising our economy and transforming our society, with good, green jobs in every region of the country.”

Doug Parr, chief scientist of Greenpeace UK, said:

Whilst the coal announcement this morning had good things, including the sign up of new countries to coal power phaseout, we need to be clear on where it falls short.

“Major coal-dependent economies, China, India, USA and Australia, need to sign up too.

“And developed countries signed up to quit coal in the 2030s “or as soon as possible thereafter. This is a significant backslide from the original 2030 goal, as outlined in the International Energy Agency net zero scenario.”

DrillOrDrop’s reporting from COP26 has been made possible by donations from individual readers

2 replies »

  1. Alok will be right of course, the end of fossil fuel (as opposed to fossil lubricants and feedstock), has always been in sight one way or another. It just depends on how good your telescope is. The death of UK coal extraction is well documented and began in 1913.
    I have often enjoyed showing the graph of UK coal production post 1913 to those who believe the end of UK mining was a Tory plot, or maybe a Labour Plot (or a plot to fit the conspiracy theory du jour). Something always turns up to replace that you are doing. In the case of the UK, Nuclear and gas came along (and a small slice of hydro) and now wind, solar, replacement nuclear we hope and the export of industry to other countries.

  2. Interesting that those who have not signed up ref. coal are unlikely to require too much funding, so the key will be whether those that don’t sign up plus those that sign up but do little, will materially be that much different to the status quo. Might be in 10 years, but in short term, I suspect not.

    Bit like the old tobacco issue. There is confusion between what our local small bits of the planet do, and what much larger bits with much larger and expanding populations do.

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