The UK and Canada Join Forces to Lead the Fight Against Coal

The UK, Canada and a number of other nations have committed to end unabated coal use entirely by the year 2030, a major step toward meeting the goals established in the Paris Agreement.

Dubbed the “Powering Past Coal Alliance,” the new group was formed last week at the COP23 climate change talks in Bonn, Germany. In announcing the formation of this group, the UK issued a declaration which reads in part:

Coal-fired power plants produce almost 40 per cent of global electricity today, making carbon pollution from coal a leading contributor to climate change.


Countries moving to low-carbon, climate-resilient economies are already seeing environmental, economic and human health benefits. Our coalition wants to help accelerate that transition. Powering Past Coal brings together a diverse range of governments, businesses and organisations that are united in taking action to accelerate clean growth and climate protection through the rapid phase-out of traditional coal power. We commit to achieve that phase-out in a sustainable and economically inclusive way, including appropriate support for workers and communities.

Unabated coal power refers to electricity generated by coal without any measures to off-set or reduce the resulting carbon release and other environmental impacts. While world governments must eventually move away from coal power completely, in the meantime our remaining power stations need to be switched over to make them as clean as possible.

And to that end, government partners in this agreement promise to phase out traditional coal power. The declaration also includes a major ban on new traditional coal power stations unless they have carbon capture and storage.

In addition, the alliance calls for signatories in the business sector to commit to powering their operations without coal. Furthermore, all signatories have committed to supporting clean power across their policy making and investments. They also hope to restrict finance for traditional coal power — something that may be achieved through carbon capture, though that system certainly has its own flaws.

At the time of the announcement, 25 signatories were on board — including Angola, Costa Rica, France, Portugal, Netherlands and Washington. That is, of course, in addition to Canada and the UK.

At the moment, several key nations are absent from the list. These include China, Germany and the wider United States. Other signatories are hopeful that Germany will add its name in the near future, and that China may be persuaded in due course as it amps up its attempts to become a leading renewable energy power. As for the United States, the Trump administration is unlikely to support any coal phase out — but that’s where this alliance has a major strength.

From the outset, members have made clear that the alliance welcomes both national representatives and state representatives. The door is left open, then, for individual U.S. states to sign up, making Washington’s inclusion in this list important.

As another leading voice in this effort, Canada’s representatives have said they are encouraged that this could be a first step to further efforts that will ensure we meet our Paris Agreement goals.

“Coal is literally choking our cities, with close to a million people dying every year from coal pollution,” Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, stated. “I’m thrilled to see so much global momentum for the transition to clean energy — and this is only the beginning.”

It’s crucial to point out, however, that the UK’s leading action on this initiative does require taking immediate action if it wants to be recognized as a true world leader on cleaner energy.

For example, a recent Guardian report notes that the UK’s remaining eight coal-fired stations appear to have exploited a gap in the French market — one caused by the temporary closure of France’s nuclear plant Tricastin — in order to sell coal generated electricity at higher prices. While the UK is still using less coal than it did last year, this means that coal usage has gone up significantly. Clearly, governments will have to take decisive and uncompromising action to make the goals set out in this alliance a reality.

Nevertheless, the Powering Past Coal Alliance is the latest in a series of global coalitions aiming to bring about a greener energy future, giving us yet another reason to be optimistic that some of our Paris Agreement goals remain achievable.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hillabout a month ago

Coal can be used cleanly. Let's do that instead of denying coal miners their jobs!

Graham P
Graham P2 months ago

Take note U.S.A.

Paola S
Paola S2 months ago

thanks for sharing

Pat P
Pat P2 months ago

If only America's government was intelligent enough to join them in getting rid of filthy damaging coal, and saving lives!
Smart progressive healthy countries believe in and work toward a green clean energy future!

rita uljee
rita uljee2 months ago

seeing is believing!

Anette S
Anette S2 months ago

What good are all the bold words, if (almost) no deeds follow?

Kathryn I
Kathryn I2 months ago

The UK and Canada make the U.S. look like covered-wagon days in more ways than one.

heather g
heather g2 months ago

I still think that Canada (mainly BC) is not progressive enough

Paulo R
Paulo R3 months ago

great, ty

Paulo R
Paulo R3 months ago

great, ty