Future global coal projects must be immediately cancelled to end the “deadly addiction” to fossil fuels by the close of the decade, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday.
Phasing out coal from the electricity sector is the single most important step to tackle the climate crisis, he said. Guterres’s call came at the opening of a virtual summit of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA), a group of governments and businesses committed to ending coal burning for power. He said:
Today, I am calling on all governments, private companies and local authorities to take three steps.
First, cancel all global coal projects in the pipeline and end the deadly addiction to coal. Second, end the international financing of coal plants and … third, jump-start a global effort to finally organise a just transition [for coal industry workers], going plant by plant if necessary.”
The veteran Portuguese Socialist called the world’s reliance on coal a “deadly addiction” and appealed for ending international financing for coal and providing greater support to developing countries transitioning to renewable energy.
He spoke even as many countries struggle with the reality of using renewables to provide reliable baseload power to growing, thriving economies.
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“I also ask all multilateral and public banks — as well as investors in commercial banks or pension funds — to shift their investments now in the new economy of renewable energy”, he added.
The UN chief called on all countries to embrace the International Labor Organization’s guidelines for a transition and adopt them as a minimum standard.
The U.N. Special Envoy on Climate and Finance agreed. He added his voice to the demand for an end to coal burning, calling on the finance sector to play its part.
Former Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, spoke of the “encouraging” trends he has witnessed over the past five years, claiming the issue has become a “top strategic priority” for business.
“It’s mainstreaming very fast, and it’s mainstreaming in a very positive direction where the search is for opportunity to accelerate”, he said.
However, the U.N. envoy emphasized that private and public funding, including by multilateral development banks, must be aligned, despite the fact the U.S. for one has never been troubled when it comes to finding investors for new coal mines.
"Those jobs are gone forever!"
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The Powering Past Coal Alliance is a coalition of national and sub-national governments, businesses and organisations working to advance the transition from coal power generation to clean energy.
The virtual summit was co-hosted by the UK and Canada.