The world’s most advanced economies just agreed to end coal use by 2035 – with a catch

The Group of Seven nations announced Tuesday its member nations would end the use of “unabated” coal by 2035, but left the door open for countries to stretch that deadline in particular contexts.

In a communiqué published after talks between energy, climate and environment ministers in Turin, Italy, the group announced it had committed to “phase out existing unabated coal power generation in our energy systems during the first half of 2030s,” in a climate policy breakthrough that G7 negotiators had previously failed to achieve in several years of talks.

But by referring to “unabated” coal, the agreement leaves room for countries to use the fossil fuel past 2035 if their carbon pollution is captured before entering the atmosphere.

The agreement also includes a caveat that countries could choose “a timeline consistent with keeping a limit of 1.5°C temperature rise within reach, in line with countries’ net-zero pathways.”

That caveat appears to allow those countries to keep using coal past 2035, as long as their overall national emissions won’t contribute to global warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Science shows that some of the planet’s ecosystems will reach tipping points or struggle to adapt beyond that point.

Several members of the G7, which represents the biggest economies in the developed world, have already come close to ending the use of coal. Coal makes up less than 6% of the electricity mix in the UK, Italy and Canada, and almost nothing in France. But it still comprises 32% of Japan’s electricity mix, 27% of Germany’s and 16% of the US’, according to the think tank Ember.

The agreement comes just days after the US Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules that will require coal-fired power plants to either capture nearly all of their climate pollution or shut down by 2039. CNN has reached out to the White House and State Department for comment.

When questioned by journalists on the caveats in the G7’s agreement, Italian Environment and Energy Security Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin defended the agreement, saying the language shows “G7 countries undertake to phase out the use of coal, without jeopardizing the various countries’ economic and social equilibrium.”

The language is weaker than what UK minister Andrew Bowie told a reporter on Monday: that the group had agreed to end coal by 2035, making no reference to unabated coal or wiggle room in the timeline.

Despite the caveats, several climate policy experts welcomed the announcement, describing it as a breakthrough after years of roadblocks on the issue.

“Stamping an end date on the coal era is precisely the kind of leadership we need from the world’s wealthiest countries,” said Jennifer Layke, the global director for energy at the World Resources Institute. “This decision provides a beacon of hope for the rest of the world, showing the transition away from coal can happen much faster than many thought possible.”

But the think tank Climate Analytics said that, while the announcement would put pressure on Japan, the only G7 member that hasn’t set an end date for coal, the 2035 deadline is too late to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

An analysis by the think tank shows all coal use in G7 nations needs to end by 2030 at the latest – and natural gas use should end by 2035 – to prevent global warming exceeding the 1.5-degree threshold.

“Many of these countries have already publicly committed to phase out dates ahead of 2030, and only have a small amount of coal capacity anyway,” said Jane Ellis, head of climate policy at Climate Analytics.

It’s notable that a gas phase-out was not mentioned, Ellis added. “In the last decade, gas has been the largest source of the global increase in CO2 emissions, and many G7 governments are investing in new domestic gas facilities. This is absolutely the wrong direction to be heading in – both economically and for the climate.”

G7 should make the transition to renewables faster, Ellis said.

Fossil fuels are the primary driver of the climate crisis, and coal is typically the most polluting of all fossil fuels. But putting an end date on coal has been highly controversial. Japan has blocked progress on the issue at past G7 meetings, CNN has previously reported.

Almost every country in the world agreed last year to transition away from fossil fuels at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai, but failing to put an end date on coal was seen as a shortcoming of those negotiations.

The G7 typically leads on global climate policy. The group’s decisions often trickle down or influence the wider G20, which includes other big emitters, like China and India, as well as major fossil fuel producers, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Ella Nilsen and Laura Paddison contributed to this report.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top