A growing number of countries have signed a “coal pledge” to phase out existing coal plants and stop investment in new projects.
Some of the fresh members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) are Ukraine, Poland and Singapore, which now brings the total number of countries to 48, with potentially more to join in the coming days at the COP26.
But three key countries are still missing from the alliance and that could influence its efficiency. China, India and the United States, which are the three largest consumers of coal globally haven’t signed the pledge.
The Internationa Energy Agency has previously stated that in order to reach zero emissions by 2050, new coal plant development need to be stopped in 2021.
Coal pledge shows momentum
Still, many experts felt the number of countries joining the pledge at the COP26 summit shows there is momentum behind the movement to stop using as an energy source.
“Today’s commitments will help to shift whole continents on their journey to phase out coal,” said Dave Jones of the energy think tank Ember.
One key addition to the list is Poland. The eastern European country is the second-biggest user of coal in Europe after Germany, which has set a 2030 target to stop using coal.
The Polish government was reluctant to reduce its production and consumption, with the country reliant on the Bełchatów Power Station and others for its energy needs. But they have brought the previous deadline of 2049 in line with many other EU countries and the UK.
Ukraine, an economy that also relies on coal and is the third-largest coal consumer in Europe, also aligned its deadline for ceasing its use, from 2050 to 2035.
US prolonging life of its coal plants
In the meantime, the US has been sending contradicting signals about the future of its coal plants. Coal-fired power plants could be eligible for substantial tax breaks under a proposed legislation from President Biden called 45Q.
The condition to receive the potentially billions of dollars, is to install carbon capture systems, something which would effectively prolong their lifespan even while reducing their emissions significantly.
All power plants that capture their CO2 emissions would be eligible for as much as $85 per metric ton under the draft of Biden’s $1.75 trillion spending plan. The current law provides for a $50 credit.
If the change is enacted, this could mean that a 1,000 megawatt coal plant could receive $6 billion in payments over 12 years, according to analysis from environmental group Sierra Club.
They estimate that this increase would mean prolonging the active lifespan of 25% of coal plants in the United States.