UN Chief: Cancel All Coal Power Projects – Globally

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on coal power

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has again called for an end to what he called the world’s deadly addiction to coal.

In a message to the Powering Past Coal Alliance Summit, the Secretary-General said while momentum for climate action offers a measure of hope, that hope must be checked against reality. The release of Nationally Determined Contributions Synthesis report last week revealed “we have a long way to go”, indicating governments are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

The NDCs are described as being at the heart of the Paris Agreement, embodying efforts by each country that signed on to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change impacts.

In his message, Secretary-General Guterres outlined 3 steps governments, private companies and local authorities need to take:

  • Cancel all coal projects in the global pipeline.
  • End international financing of coal plants and shift that investment to renewable energy projects.
  • A global effort to organize a just transition, “going coal plant by coal plant if necessary” to ensure the needs of all coal communities are recognised.

“Phasing out coal from the electricity sector is the single most important step to get in line with the 1.5-degree goal,” said the Secretary-General. “This means that global coal use in electricity generation must fall by 80% below 2010 levels by 2030”.

Climate change aside, he also appeared to reference a recent report suggesting fossil fuel related air pollution causes close to 1 in 5 of all deaths globally each year.

Australia Needs To Phase Out Coal Power By 2030

Secretary-General Guterres urged OECD countries to commit to phasing out coal power by 2030, and for non-OECD countries to do so by 2040.

At this point in Australia, there are a bunch of coal-fired power stations that aren’t scheduled to close before 2030. But some of these emissions-spewing facilities will come under pressure to close earlier than anticipated for other reasons.

Three to five of the remaining fifteen coal power stations in Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) will be under financial stress by 2025 according to recent analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Green Energy Markets. This will be due to the huge amount of renewable energy supply expected to be added to the NEM over the next few years.

“The supply added from 2018 to 2025 equates to over a third of the entire demand in the NEM, and more than 8 times the annual generation of the Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW,” said Green Energy Markets’ Tristan Edis.

CSIRO’s GenCost report released in December last year demonstrated that wind and solar power continue to be the cheapest source of energy for Australia, even taking into account additional system integration costs including energy storage and added transmission expenditure.

With the writing on the wall on the economics front as well as climate, it remains to be seen if the Morrison Government read and fully digest it, and properly support an orderly but speedy transition starting sooner rather than later.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. Geoff Miell says

    The post above includes: “In a message to the Powering Past Coal Alliance Summit, the Secretary-General said while momentum for climate action offers a measure of hope, that hope must be checked against reality.”

    The reality includes evidence I see that indicates the Earth’s climate system is likely to overshoot +2 °C global mean warming threshold (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age) within this century.

    Per ERA5 data, Earth’s climate state was at +1.3 °C global mean warming in 2020. Land was at 1.94 °C.

    It’s inevitable an overshoot of +1.5 °C global mean warming will occur, probably before 2030 – modeling suggests best estimates for around 2026 to 2028, regardless of future human-induced GHG emissions.

    Per “Climate Reality Check 2020”, page 11, the current Earth energy imbalance (EEI) – the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (between outgoing and incoming radiation), which is driving global warming – is in the range +0.6–0.75 °C for the current level of greenhouse gases ALREADY in the atmosphere.

    So that means we are likely already ‘locked-in’ for a global mean warming in the range +1.9–2.05 °C at equilibrium, with no further human-induced GHG emissions. Humanity won’t be cutting GHG emissions overnight, so it’s almost a certainty that +2 °C warming level will be breached, and on current GHG emissions trajectory, probably by around 2050, or perhaps earlier. If humanity can rapidly reduce GHG emissions – greater than 50% before 2030 and net zero before 2040 – then the overshoot of +2 °C global mean warming will probably be delayed to the later part of this century.

    So, per the evidence I see, we/humanity have already failed the Paris Climate Agreement goal for keeping “well below 2 °C”.

    Yet our political, business and media elites are still talking about keeping below +1.5 °C warming level. For example, Greens leader Adam Bandt MP, in a Mar 5 RenewEconomy podcast said (from time interval 30:47):

    “What’s going to be our top priority? Our top priority is going to be climate action, and we want… we think if we can get agreement to working towards a one-and-a-half degree goal, then things flow backwards from there.”

    It’s a big mistake to think we can “park” the Earth System at any given temperature rise – say at +2 °C global mean warming – and expect it to stay there. Former NASA climate chief Professor James Hansen said that it is “well understood by the scientific community” that goals to limit human-made warming to +2 °C are “prescriptions for disaster”.

    The “Hothouse Earth” scenario is one in which climate system feedbacks and their mutual interaction drive the Earth System climate to a point of no return, whereby further warming would become self-sustaining (that is, without further human perturbations). This planetary threshold could exist at a temperature rise as low as +2 °C, possibly even in the +1.5 °C–2 °C range.

    Per Scripps Mauna Loa Observatory readings over the last 12 months, atmospheric CO2 readings ranged from a monthly average low of around 411 ppm to a peak of around 417 ppm.

    Stabilisation (at current climate state) would require an atmospheric carbon drawdown of around 65 ppm (back to ~350 ppm) to stop further warming of ~0.7 °C. Drawdown is a slow process that will not provide active cooling until it is greater than the level of GHG emissions.

    Large-scale carbon drawdown technologies do not currently exist. Large-scale R&D and deployment is crucial, but there are also significant risks of unintended consequences.

    The collapse of civilisation is not inevitable, but emergency-level action right now is critical to minimise the rate and magnitude of warming.

    Even substantial emission reductions will have no significant impact on the warming trend over the next 20-25 years, due to the offsetting effect of aerosols.

    IMO, these are the inconvenient truths that are not being acknowledged by our political, business and media elites.

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