15 May 2021

Consign coal to the past, UK climate leader says

4:16 pm on 15 May 2021

The world's leaders must agree to make coal a thing of the past at November's climate summit if there is to be any hope of limiting the devastating effects of the planet's warming due to carbon emissions, Britain's climate tsar said on Friday.

Conveyor belt carrying coal and pouring onto a pile

Photo: 123rf / ©Carol Buchanan

Britain, which is hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, known as COP26, has said leaders should go far beyond "hot air" to mitigate the effects of climate change for both rich and poor countries.

COP26 president Alok Sharma, a British minister in charge of preparations for the Glasgow summit, said that in order to meet the global climate goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world would need to ditch coal altogether.

"Glasgow must be the COP that consigns coal to history," Sharma will say in a speech on Friday, according to excerpts released by his office.

The world's biggest producers are China, India, Indonesia, Australia, the United States, Russia and the European Union. China is also the world's biggest consumer, using more than half of the world's coal produced, according to the International Energy Agency.

President Xi Jinping has said he expects carbon emissions to continue rising until 2030.

Aerial view of the Fushun West Open Coal Mine, the largest open coal mine in Asia, in Fushun city, northeast China's Liaoning province, 17 June 2018.

An aerial view of the Fushun West Open Coal Mine, the largest open coal mine in Asia, in Fushun city, northeast China's Liaoning province, in June 2018. Photo: AFP

'Pick the planet'

Sharma, a 53-year-old business minister, said he asked his daughters what he should say to the world.

"Their response was simple: 'please, tell them to pick the planet'," Sharma said.

"That's the message I want to leave you with today: A message from my daughters. A message from future generations."

Still, updated plans to reduce emissions, submitted so far by about 75 nations ahead of November's COP26 summit, barely make a dent in the huge cuts needed to meet global climate goals, the UN climate chief said earlier this year.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said global emissions must fall by about 45 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels.

Britain currently generates 2 percent of its electricity from coal, down from 40 percent in 2012 and it plans to phase out coal as a power source completely by 2024.

But environmental campaigners say British financial institutions play a major role in funding coal mines and coal-fired power stations elsewhere in the world.

"We are working directly with governments, and through international organisations, to end international coal financing. This is a personal priority," Sharma said in the statement.

- Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs