Climate goals rising in countries that use the most coal

Chief Europe Correspondent
Graph of number of countries with plans to phase down coal use and net-zero emissions pledges
Source: International Energy Agency.

The overwhelming majority of global coal consumption occurs in countries that have, in some way or another, pledged to limit or phase out their reliance on the fuel, according to a report out this month from the International Energy Agency.

The finding is both a reflection of how challenging it will be to ditch this polluting fuel and a tentative sign of hope.

“If nothing is done, emissions from existing coal assets would, by themselves, tip the world across the 1.5°C limit,” the report states, referring to an increasingly difficult goal among world leaders to limit Earth’s temperature rise within this century.

An increasing number of countries have made net-zero emissions pledges or adopted policies to reduce coal use in the power sector over the last decade.

As of July 2022, 75 countries had agreed to phase out coal or to not develop new unabated coal power plants that don’t have technology installed to capture the emitted carbon dioxide, which is costly and not widely commercially available. Collectively, these 75 countries account for 20% of current coal‐fired generation, the report states.

Another 16 countries have announced net-zero emissions targets without any coal-specific targets. To meet those targets, many will need to phase out unabated coal.

Together, these 91 countries account for almost 100% of coal-fired generation today, including the top-five coal users in the world: China, India, the United States, Japan and South Africa.