Twenty countries have already announced plans to phase out coal by 2030. Several European countries – including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the UK – were part of the initiative launched at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in November 2017. However, many others have yet to commit (including two of Europe’s biggest coal consumers: Germany and Poland).
French President Macron had already pledged during his election campaign to shutter his country’s coal power plants by 2022 (though France only draws 3-4% of its energy from coal, so it’s a relatively low-cost promise to keep). In 2017, Britain achieved its first coal-free day since the industrial revolution, with gas, nuclear, wind, and solar providing enough power to keep the UK’s coal-fired plants offline for 24 hours. Should all EU countries attempt to follow their lead?
What do our readers think? We had a comment from Jacob, who believes we must phase out coal completely by 2030 if we are serious about tackling climate change. Is he right?
To get a response, we talked to Professor Claudia Kemfert, head of the Energy, Transportation, and Environment department at the German Institute for Economic Research and Professor of Energy Economics and Sustainability at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. What would she say?
A coal phase-out is indispensable if we want to reach the climate goals set in Paris… This could be done in stages, to prevent disruption. In the first phase, the oldest, most inefficient coal-fired power plants would immediately be taken off the grid. Second, the maximum capacity of coal power plants would be reduced, replaced by renewables. Then we can complete the phase-out by 2030, as long as there is the political will and the correct structural changes are properly implemented.
We also had a comment from Hagen, who wonders if it’s not already too late for a coal phase-out. How can we stop something that began in the middle of the 19th Century?
Climate scientists tell us we must start reducing emissions as soon as possible to reach the global temperature target of 1.5 to 2.0 degrees of warming by 2100. Yet it is only if we actually reduce emissions by 80-95 percent by the middle of the century that this will be possible. It can be done if we expand renewable energies and do everything possible to save energy and create new renewable technologies – such as wind, solar, biomass, and other forms – across all sectors including transport and the construction sector… If we do that then we can meet our climate protection goals.
Should Europe completely phase out coal by 2030? Or is that an unrealistic target? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!