Current pledges to phase out coal power are critically insufficient to slow climate change


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The Powering Past Coal Alliance, or PPCA, is a coalition of 30 countries and 22 cities and states, that aims to phase out unabated coal power. But analysis led by Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, published in Nature Climate Change, shows that members mainly pledge to close older plants near the end of their lifetimes, resulting in limited emissions reductions. The research also shows that expansion of the PPCA to major coal consuming countries would face economic and political difficulties.

By analysing a worldwide database of coal power plants, the researchers have shown that pledges from PPCA members will result in a reduction of about 1.6 gigatonnes of CO2 from now until 2050. This represents only around 1/150th of projected CO2 emissions over the same time period from all coal power plants which are already operating globally.

"To keep global warming below 1.5°C, as aimed for in the Paris climate agreement, we need to phase-out unabated coal power—that is, when the carbon emissions are not captured—by the middle of this century. The Powering Past Coal Alliance is a good start but so far, only wealthy countries which don't use much coal, and some countries which don't use any coal power, have joined," says Jessica Jewell, assistant professor at the Department of Space, Earth and the Environment at Chalmers University of Technology, and lead researcher on the article.
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the paper:

Prospects for powering past coal:

To keep global warming within 1.5 °C of pre-industrial levels, there needs to be a substantial decline in the use of coal power by 20301,2 and in most scenarios, complete cessation by 20501,3. The members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA), launched in 2017 at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, are committed to “phasing out existing unabated coal power generation and a moratorium on new coal power generation without operational carbon capture and storage”4. The alliance has been hailed as a ‘political watershed’5 and a new ‘anti-fossil fuel norm’6. Here we estimate that the premature retirement of power plants pledged by PPCA members would cut emissions by 1.6 GtCO2, which is 150 times less than globally committed emissions from existing coal power plants. We also investigated the prospect of major coal consumers joining the PPCA by systematically comparing members to non-members. PPCA members extract and use less coal and have older power plants, but this alone does not fully explain their pledges to phase out coal power. The members of the alliance are also wealthier and have more transparent and independent governments. Thus, what sets them aside from major coal consumers, such as China and India, are both lower costs of coal phase-out and a higher capacity to bear these costs.