The EU Must Close All Coal Power Plants by 2030 to Meet Climate Change Goals
A new investigation suggests that if the European Union hopes to meet its climate change goals, it must close all coal power plants by no later than 2030.
Climate Analytics, the research institute responsible for this finding, reports that in order to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise less than two degrees Celsius, Europe must phase out all of its 315 coal-fired power stations by the 2030 deadline. Allowing the stations to run to the end of their natural lives just isn’t an option, they claim.
Not only that, but the EU must take immediate steps in order to stay on track to meet temperature control goals. The executive summary of this report notes:
To stay within the Paris Agreement temperature limit, a quarter of the coal-fired power plants already operating in the EU would need to be switched off before 2020; a further 47% should go offline by 2025. If the EU is to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, any investments in new plants and most investments in existing power plants will not be recovered by investors.
Climate Analytics arrived at these stark warnings by projecting current fossil fuel trends and estimating the EU’s carbon budget, as well as predicting what they will be by 2050. With this information, the group could evaluate if the figures matched up, or if there was a discrepancy — and there was.
With a projection that the EU’s carbon budget will be around 6.5 GtCO2 by 2050 — and assuming that coal-fired power plants continue to be in operation as planned until that time — the EU will exceed its CO2 emissions budget by 85 percent.
Obviously these figures only serve as projections. Nevertheless, the report indicates that by phasing out coal aggressively, the targets set during the Paris Agreement could still be met.
“We find the cheapest way for the EU to make the emissions cuts required to meet its Paris Agreement commitments is to phase out coal from the electricity sector, and replace this capacity with renewables and energy efficiency measures,” Paola Yanguas Parra, a lead author of the report, stated.
While nearly all EU nations will need to take swift action, the report highlights calls on Poland and Germany – two nations with the largest number of coal power plants — to lead the charge.
Although the EU as a whole should provide incentives and financial support to help Germany and Poland achieve these targets, progress in this area appears doubtful.
The Guardian reports:
Germany is postponing its coal phase-out plans until after elections later this year. Poland, which is preparing a legal challenge to the EU’s climate policy, argues that it can plant trees to offset coal emissions, and one day apply experimental carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).
Poland’s attempts at carbon sink have been discussed and debated at great length. While undoubtedly there are benefits to using and maintaining forests as one form of CO2 reduction, researchers remain unconvinced that the system will reach a balance. Instead, this report emphasizes that there is a more straightforward route: simply closing coal power stations.
There are several actions that the EU can take to improve its progress toward emission caps and temperature increase reduction. The report highlights how increasing the affordability of renewable energy has led to a significant shift toward greener energy in the past decade — something that can be further supported as we work toward target reductions.
Furthermore, stricter environmental regulations in the form of a clear phase-out schedule and supporting policies would ensure that coal fire plants are not kept alive. There is a particular concern that the UK, despite committing to CO2 reduction targets — and specifically, to a coal phaseout — could end up not meeting those goals due to soft regulation allowing coal power stations to stay open.
With the UK parliament looking to trigger Brexit soon, there is even more scrutiny on the UK government to ensure it does not further reduce its environmental commitments.
Regardless of the specific initiatives that EU chooses to institute, one fact becomes abundantly clear from this report: if the world is to hit temperature reduction targets, we cannot keep using fossil fuels as we have been doing. While this fact far from new, it’s worth repeating. Indeed, the world as we know it may depend on it.
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