G7 Agree to End Coal Power Generation by 2035

The Group of Seven Nations (G7) has ramped up its green-energy transition efforts with an expedited timeline that will see its member nations stop the “unabated use” of coal by the year 2035. This represents a significant breakthrough in climate policy after G7 negotiators spent several years unsuccessfully trying to set a common target for eliminating unabated coal use.

Shortly after G7 climate, environment and energy ministers held talks in Italy to discuss a common target for the phase-out of coal-fired power plants, the group released a communiqué announcing that it had committed to phasing out the unabated use of coal in electricity generation through the first half of the next decade.

By using the term “unabated” coal, G7 negotiators granted their member nations the wiggle room to use coal in energy generation past 2035 as long as they capture the resultant carbon pollution before it enters the atmosphere. The agreement also states that nations could choose a timeline that allows them to remain within reach of the 1.5°C temperature rise limit and in line with other countries’ timelines for achieving net-zero emissions.

This second caveat seems to allow G7 nations to continue burning coal past 2035 as long as their total national emissions don’t contribute to raising global warming levels to more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels. Scientific research has found that the globe’s ecosystems may not be able to adapt in time if temperatures breach this level.

Coal has been integral to powering industries and heating homes in the west for several centuries now and was a critical component of the industrial revolution. Unfortunately, despite the contributions it has made to advancing human civilization, coal is an extremely polluting fuel that has contributed to a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions.

As the world ramps up efforts to cut carbon emissions and arrest climate change, eliminating coal from the energy mix and replacing it with renewable alternatives will be critical. Most G7 members have already taken significant steps to reduce their reliance on coal, and many of them are close to completely ending coal use in power generation.

Fossil fuel contributes less than 6% of the energy mix in Canada, the United Kingdom and Italy while France barely uses coal at all. On the other hand, think tank Ember notes that coal makes up 32% of the energy mix in Japan, 27% in Germany and 16% in the United States.

The timeline set for coal power plants to cease operations is likely to give major coal producers such as Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE: BTU) food for thought as such an end date implies that many of the clients they have been supplying coal to will no longer need the fossil fuel.

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