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30/06/2021

Coal power to end earlier than planned, government announces

Words: Laura Edgar
Coal mining / Shutterstock: 512270401

Energy and climate minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has announced that Great Britain will not use coal to generate electricity from 1 October 2024 – one year earlier than originally planned.

The UK Government will introduce new legislation to achieve this at the “earliest opportunity”.

The measure is part of the government commitment to transition away from fossil fuels and decarbonise the power sector to eliminate its contributions to the climate crisis. The government also said it would contribute to limiting global temperature rise to 1.6 degrees.

According to the government, bringing forward the deadline to phase out coal highlights the UK's “leadership to go further and faster in driving down emissions and lead by example in tackling climate change” ahead of COP26 in Glasgow this November. In addition, the government called on all nations to accelerate the phase-out of coal power.

The announcement was made ahead of Trevelyan’s speech to the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) Europe Roundtable today (30 June), on the importance of countries phasing out coal as part of London Climate Action Week.

She said: "Coal powered the industrial revolution 200 years ago, but now is the time for radical action to completely eliminate this dirty fuel from our energy system.

“Today we’re sending a clear signal around the world that the UK is leading the way in consigning coal power to the history books and that we’re serious about decarbonising our power system so we can meet our ambitious, world-leading climate targets.

“The UK’s net-zero future will be powered by renewables, and it is this technology that will drive the green industrial revolution and create new jobs across the country.”

Last year coal accounted for just 1.8 per cent of the UK’s electricity mix in 2020, compared with 40 per cent nearly 10 years ago. Earlier this year the UK broke a new wind power record, with just over a third of the country’s energy coming from wind.

COP26 president-designate Alok Sharma added: “Ahead of COP26, I hope the UK’s decisive step towards a cleaner, greener future sends a clear signal to friends around the world that clean power is the way forward. The impact of this step will be far greater if we can bring the world with us, and so our desire to support a clean and just energy transition is central to my discussions on the road to COP26.”


Reaction:

Greenpeace UK’s senior climate campaigner Ariana Densham said: “One year less of burning coal is of course a wonderful thing but, when it comes to carbon emissions, coal plays a bit-part role in the UK. The vast majority of our emissions come from burning oil and gas. Renewables are now cheaper than any other source of energy in the UK, so why not a wholesale switch?

‘If the government really wants to make a big statement ahead of the global climate summit this autumn, it should lead by example and commit to ending all new fossil fuel projects, not just coal, by the end of this year, as well as delivering the policies on renewables, homes, transport and food at the speed and scale required to stop global temperatures from spiralling out of control.”

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth commented: “Although this is welcome news, coal power was already fading into the history books.

“Coal provided just 1.5 per cent of UK electricity in the final quarter of 2020, the lowest level on record, and by the end of next year there will be just one coal-fired power station still in operation.

“But ministerial boasts about taking radical action to completely eliminate this dirty fuel ring hollow while this government is still sitting on the fence about a new coal mine in Cumbria.”


Image credit | Shutterstock

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