US and six other countries join alliance to abandon coal

The United States, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Iceland, Kosovo and Norway announced on Saturday at COP28 that they are joining the global alliance to abandon coal, a “signal to the global market” that analysts hope can encourage disinvestment in this fossil fuel.

Speaking at the UN climate summit in Dubai, US climate envoy John Kerry defended the need to “phase out” coal, which does not have the technology to capture emissions (“unabated”), in order to meet the goal of 100% CO2-free electricity by 2035.

Kerry urged the world to join the North American country in the “Powering Past Coal” alliance – which already includes 80% of OECD countries – and stressed that “the first step is to stop making the problem worse: stop building new unabated coal plants”.

The US has the third largest capacity of coal-fired power plants in operation, behind China and India, although the North American country has not built any new plants in the last decade and is on track to close more than half of its centers.

Analysts from various organizations, such as Climate Analytics, Solutions for Our Climate or Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G), welcomed the news and assured a group of journalists present at COP28 that the fact that the US joined the initiative could encourage other countries, such as Korea, Japan, India or China, to commit as well.

“The US is a big consumer of coal, it has a huge coal fleet of over 200 gigawatts, so this is hugely symbolic, not only in terms of emissions, but also because the US is stepping up on the international stage and saying that it is going to phase out coal on a one-and-a-half degree path,” celebrated Leo Roberts, energy transition specialist at E3G.

“All of this reflects the market and people’s tendency to think that the more we invest in coal, the more stranded assets we will have,” he added, saying that the U.S. move reinforces this trend and sends the message that investing in new coal-fired power generation means economic decline.

However, experts also criticized the fact that the date that the United States has set as a deadline to completely abandon coal is 2035, since “it does not allow progress at the pace necessary to meet the Paris goals,” adopted in 2015 to prevent global warming from exceeding one and a half to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Climate scientist and director of Climate Analytics, Bill Hare, stressed that the US commitment is to leave behind “reduced” coal – which does not have CO2 capture and storage systems – while “the latest IPCC assessment makes it pretty clear that what we need is not reduced carbon, but carbon out”.

Capturing and storing CO2 is “too expensive” for coal-fired power generation, he said, and also poses “big environmental problems