These countries are saying no to coal

There is no dirtier way to produce energy than burning coal.

Coal creates more carbon dioxide than any other fuel source, contributing to the accumulation of greenhouse gases and making the climate crisis worse.

While many countries are phasing out their reliance on coal-fired power plants, some countries continue to build more of these environmentally damaging plants.

“How alarming it is, my friends, that as we race to Glasgow, some countries are currently still building new, carbon-polluting coal plants, and even planning to break ground on more in the future,” said Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry during a speech July 20 in London.

“We can’t afford a world so divided in its response to the climate crisis when the evidence is so compelling for action.”

As of 2018, 38.5% of the world’s energy comes from burning coal, accounting for nearly one-third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

More work needs to be done but these countries are — and have been — working to eliminate coal and invest in green energy options, proving that divesting from coal is possible today:

  • Austria shut down its last coal-fired power plant in April 2020.
  • Belgium closed its last coal-fired power plant in 2016, becoming the first European Union country to do so.
  • Germany’s parliament voted in 2020 to shut down its last coal-fired power plant by 2038 and also spend $45 billion to help affected regions cope with the transition to green energy.
  • Sweden closed its last coal-fired power plant in 2020, two years ahead of schedule.
  • The United Kingdom pledged in 2018 to shut down all of its coal-fired power plants by 2025 and is already making progress on going weeks without burning coal.
Sunny forest of tall, thin trees seen against blue sky (© Jason Lindsey/Alamy)
A forest near Torsby in Värmland County, Sweden. The European Union recently drafted plans to build up forests, grasslands and other natural resources to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As forests absorb emissions trapped in the atmosphere from coal-fired power plants, they help offset the effects of climate change. (© Jason Lindsey/Alamy)

In April, the United States committed to creating a carbon-pollution-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050, which means an eventual phasing out of coal.

“By 2040, we should have entirely phased out all unabated coal and unabated oil plants and sharply reduced reliance on unabated natural gas generation,” Kerry concluded.