Amsterdam, Netherlands – Ending global coal-generated electricity by 2050, with a two-thirds reduction by 2030 — as recommended by the most recent IPCC report — is realistic and achievable according to a global plant-by-plant analysis by Greenpeace International and CoalSwarm in the report: “A Coal Phase-Out Pathway for 1.5°C”. It requires a rapid acceleration in the reduction rate of coal power globally. For this to happen, plans must be put in place to reduce and phase-out coal power, alongside energy efficiency measures and the deployment of low-carbon power sources.
OECD countries, which have older coal plant fleets, must lead the phase-out by completing the transition from coal power by 2030. This means a major policy change in some leading industrialised countries, particularly Germany, Poland, South Korea and Japan. (Public opinion in these countries is already changing, with some government and financial institutions following: South Chungcheong province and Korean pension funds are planning to exit coal, and 50.000 people protested in Germany at the weekend, against the expansion of a coal mine.)
Harri Lammi, Greenpeace International global coal coordinator campaigner, said:
“Shutting the coal pipeline is not a pipe dream. Many countries are already showing it can be done. Those who think coal has a future need to study the IPCC report because if they want a future for this planet, new coal projects have to be halted now. If they stick with coal, the IPCC has set out what the consequences will be for all of us.”
The pathway described by Greenpeace and CoalSwarm sets out the steps needed to reduce coal power:
- All coal plants in the pre-construction phase canceled; existing coal power capacity reduced by half by 2030. A full-phase out in OECD countries by 2030.
- A near-total global coal power phase-out by 2050.
- The global coal power plant retirement rate of coal power is accelerated to two and a half times the current level. This reduction rate has already been surpassed by some countries, eg the UK.
- Coal power load factors decline as renewables increase and coal plants shift away from a baseload role.
For non-OECD countries, such as China and India, deep cuts in coal power need to be made after 2030, beginning with the oldest coal plants, with an almost complete phase-out by 2050 at the latest. This transition will be made easier by the continued steep decline in the cost of wind and solar power. Some coal power capacity is now being retired early because it is no longer cost-competitive with renewable energy.
Ted Nace, executive director of CoalSwarm, said:
“The pathway is bold but simple: plug the pipeline, retire the current fleet, make room for renewables. All of this is achievable and is the minimum that is required if we are to have a fighting chance of keeping to this 1.5C temperature limit.”
Retiring coal capacity would also bring major health benefits by cutting air pollution, especially in Asia. Coal power is causing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths annually. Phasing out coal would also ease pressure on freshwater sources. It’s estimated the freshwater used by the world’s coal power stations would meet the basic water needs of more than 1 billion people.
Read the report here.
 In modelled 1.5°C pathways with limited or no overshoot, the use of CCS would allow the electricity generation share of gas to be approximately 8% (3–11% interquartile range) of global electricity in 2050, while the use of coal shows a steep reduction in all pathways and would be reduced to close to 0% (0–2%) of electricity (high confidence).
Harri Lammi, global coal campaign coordinator, Greenpeace International, [email protected], phone: +358 503831822
Ted Nace, executive director of CoalSwarm, [email protected], phone: +1 (510) 331-8743
Greenpeace International Press Desk, [email protected], phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)