US most aggressive in coal phase out plans: E3G report

Japan finishes last in coal phase out report

Coal phase out

All G7 countries with the exception of Japan  are working on coal phase out plans.

According to the environmental group E3G, despite having the largest coal fleet of all G7 members, the United States tops the rankings countries leading a clear move away from coal.

The E3G report says existing coal capacity in the US is at 288GW, more than twice the size of the other G7 members combined, however, the US is making the most positive progress of all the G7 countries.

New policies in the US are aimed at reducing coal pollution and setting the framework for investment in clean energy.

Jake Schmidt, International Program Director at Natural Resource Defense Council said “The US is seeing a huge shift towards more renewable energy as these sources of electricity have become the dominant source of new electricity capacity. The US has also shifted from being one of the largest sources of public financing of overseas coal plants.”

France finished in second place and has just announced the partly state-owned utility ENGIE will not invest in new coal, however, the report said the country could do more to phase out coal use by calling for an end to domestic coal use.

The UK came in third and Canada finished in fourth place.  Two Canadian provinces were singled out for their efforts to reduce coal use: Ontario received praise for eliminating coal-fired plants and Alberta pledging to accelerate its coal phase out policies.

Chris Littlecott, Programme Leader at E3G said “The UK, Canada and Italy all have a great opportunity to accelerate the closure of existing coal capacity over the coming years. The UK’s ageing coal plants are ripe for retirement. Alberta is looking to phase out coal and follow in Ontario’s footsteps.”

Italy finished fifth and the report stated that Italy, France and Germany do not have a market appetite for new coal.

According to the report, sixth place Germany acknowledged the need for additional action on existing coal, but is struggling to find a way to move forward.  A new set of coal plants have recently been fired up at what Littlecott describes as a massive financial loss.  And internationally, Littlecott says Germany is still backing unabated coal plants.

Most of the G7 members have shown they are making a move away from coal-fired plants, with the exception of Japan which is planning to add over 27GW of coal power capacity.  Japan was ranked last in the assessment.

“Japan finds itself isolated in clinging to coal, while its G7 peers are all moving towards a phase out”, says Chris Littlecott, Programme Leader at E3G.  Littlecott adds “Japan risks locking itself into overly expensive and ultimately stranded asset investments”.

Kimiko Hirata, International Director from Kiko Network says “Everyone knows that the coal industry imperils the planet. Recognizing global momentum, Japan should shift away from its current path, not only for the sake of a climate-safe world, but also to avoid international isolation and to foster a green economy in Japan.”

The report was issued months after all G7 members committed to the de-carbonization of the global economy by the end of the century.  Littlecott says Canada, the US and UK have all implemented policies of ‘no new coal without CCS’.

Since 2010, G7 countries have cancelled 63 GW of planned coal power plants and a further 124 GW of ageing coal capacity has been retired or will be offline by 2020.

The scorecard report also identifies clear actions G7 countries can take to demonstrate their commitment to move beyond coal in the run-up to COP 21:

  •  Japan needs to start with the most fundamental action first: it must act to turn off the tap of new coal power plants
  • All G7 countries should immediately cooperate to strengthen OECD conditions on export credits ahead of the Paris talks, with further commitments by Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada, to strengthen restrictions on the use of international development finance for coal projects.
  • Canada, the UK and Italy all have a clear opportunity to commit to a clear timetable for the phase out of unabated coal ahead of the Paris negotiations. Given their similarities, they could work together to effectively manage the transition and catalyse a broader coal phase out coalition.
  • As host of the negotiations, France is under pressure to confirm how and when it will end the use of coal domestically and reduce its exposure to coal overseas through state-owned utilities.
  • Germany has acknowledged the need for additional action on existing coal. It set the standard with the G7 commitment to decarbonise, but this will require additional policy efforts during 2016 to start putting it into action.
  • Lastly, the USA is in a privileged position having implemented a wide-ranging set of policies related to coal during the course of 2015. While this is a positive expression of intent, the USA must continue efforts by enabling transition pathways for coal-producing regions, including by addressing the risk of increased coal exports and the impact of coal production from federal lands.

 

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