Report Finds That Coal Plants May Prevent Achievement of Climate Targets

A new report from Global Energy Monitor has found that even after the decrease in the number of coal-fired power plants under development globally, too much coal is still being burned for the planet to stay within safe limits of temperature.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the use of coal appeared to be declining. However, economic upheaval and lockdowns imposed in different parts of the globe facilitated an increase in new coal projects, especially in China. Since the onset of the pandemic, China has used more coal-generated electricity than the rest of the world combined.

In 2021, the total power capacity for coal in development decreased again, with the number of countries planning to open new coal plants also declining. However, these improvements were outweighed by the slow manner in which older power stations, which were fired by coal, took to be taken out of commission.

The report’s authors noted that despite nations agreeing at the COP26 UN Climate Summit to phase out coal, this fuel’s last gap wasn’t in sight.

The International Energy Agency stated last year that if the world limited global heating to 1.5o C above preindustrial levels, no new exploration of fossil fuels could occur.

Despite clear warnings from researchers in the latest evaluation by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the use of coal continues. The evaluation concluded that without significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the world would fail to meet the 1.5C limit.

One of the authors of the report, Flora Champenois, stated that retiring the use of existing coal plants and stopping the construction of new coal plants by 2030 in the developed world needed to be done immediately.

However, this is easier said than done, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to an increase in fuel prices, which has made coal an even cheaper alternative for countries and companies alike.

Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst for the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, stated that it was crucial to highlight how much movement had been made toward clean energy and efficiency after Ukraine’s invasion. Myllyvirta explained that most countries were focused on reforming their energy systems by placing emphasis on energy efficiency and accelerating the use of clean energy.

He added that reducing demand in China would put a damper on coal-revival prospects, especially now that the Chinese government is planning to increase clean production of electricity by 2025, which will reduce the use of coal significantly. As things currently stand, coal miners such as Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE: BTU) still have a large market to serve.

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