Goodbye, coal! 27 nations and states pledge to kill off the dirty fossil fuel
In a historic alliance, 27 nations and states have come together to eradicate coal from the world. Formed during the UN Climate Summit, the group includes the likes of Britain, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and France, with the ambitious aim of completely phasing out coal by 2030.
Oh, and representatives from the US were there too. But no, sorry. Trump has not decided to re-sign the Paris Climate Agreement or announced that all US states will be cutting out coal, for that matter. That’s unsurprising but disappointing. In fact, the US administration officials decided to hold their own panel at the very same UN Climate Summit instead, taking the time to promote fossil fuels. It’s one thing to be on the wrong side of history, it’s another to be on the wrong side of the present.
The group, named the “Powering Past Coal Alliance,” aims to completely phase out coal from power generation before 2030. Member signatories included Angola, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, the Netherlands, Niue, Portugal, Switzerland, the UK, some Canadian provinces and even some businesses. Most notably though, in a rebuke to President Trump, two US states (Washington and Oregon) signed the declaration.
“Coal-fired power plants produce almost 40% of global electricity today, making carbon pollution from coal a leading contributor to climate change,” the declaration reads. “As a result, phasing out traditional coal power is one of the most important steps governments can take to tackle climate change.”
Thanks to fracking, the US is now the global leader in gas and oil reserves and the bizarre fossil-fuel promotion panel of US representatives seemed to defend fossil fuels wholeheartedly. The only US-hosted event held on Tuesday at the summit, titled ‘The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Mitigation’, speaks for itself.
“Without a question, fossil fuels will continue to be used,” George David Banks, special energy and environment assistant to Trump, said at the event on Tuesday. “We would argue that it’s in the global interest to make sure that when fossil fuels are used, that it’s as clean and efficient as possible.”
In defence of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Banks insisted that if they were to keep to their Paris Agreement pledge to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 28% from 2005-levels would mean that a “significant number of jobs” would be lost and it would mean “damaging US’ competitiveness.”
Barry Worthington, the executive director of the United States Energy Association, added that “economic prosperity are higher priorities” than fossil fuels.
None of these arguments are too shocking for those that have followed Trump’s rhetoric for the past decade. The big gripe is that they chose the COP23 to pedal this backwards agenda. When most countries at the summit are trying to tackle climate change, Donald Trump’s lackeys are sticking up for fossil fuels.
“My message to Donald – to President Trump – is to have a look at what other countries are doing,” Claire Perry, the UK Climate Change and Industry Minister told reporters after the alliance’s launch. “You have to make a choice based on your manifesto agreements, but there are really big opportunities out there from the transition to clean energy for jobs and for growth, which I think are things that all national leaders want to achieve for their countries.”
Disappointment doesn’t end with the US though: you may note an absence of other big nations from the list of signatories, too. China, mainly, but also the likes of Australia, Russia and Germany are conspicuous by their absence. Depressingly, all 27 countries in the alliance accounted for just 2.4% of the global coal consumption in 2016, with nations like Costa Rica and Fiji not producing coal anyway.
“Phasing out coal power is good news for the climate, for our health and for our kids,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change in a government press statement. “Coal is literally choking our cities with close to a million people dying every year from coal pollution. I’m thrilled to see so much global momentum for the transition to clean energy and this is only the beginning.
The alliance hopes to have more than 50 countries signed up before the next COP24 summit, due to take place next year in Katowice, Poland, the largest producer of coal in Europe. The planet holds its breath.