At least 23 countries have made new commitments to phase out coal power, including five of the world’s top 20 coal power-using countries. 25 countries and public finance institutions have committed to ending international public support for the unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022. Major global banks have also said they would no longer fund coal projects.
These decisions were made at COP26 taking place in Glasgow, in the United Kingdom. This is significant, the UN said, because it could shift an estimated $17.8bn a year in public support out of fossil fuels and into the clean energy transition.
However, for this to happen, some rich nations have committed to helping countries that rely on coal for power generation.
Some experts say Nigeria holds over 2.8 billion tons of coal but proven reserves were put at 379m tons by the Ministry of Solid Minerals, making it the world’s 44th largest proven reserves. Large swaths of coal deposits can be found in Nasarawa, Enugu, Gombe, Kogi and in 15 other states, much of which may never be tapped.
Upon his appointment as minister of solid minerals, Kayode Fayemi in 2016 said within the next four years, Nigeria would be generating over 1,000MW of electricity from coal. That dream never materialized.
Prior to the indigenization policy of 1972, Nigeria was a key producer of coal and it was used in electricity generation. The policy which sought to increase local participation, excluded key foreigners with superior technology and resources to develop the commodity. Nigeria’s obsession with oil further put paid to any ambition to develop coal. With the developments from COP26, Nigeria’s vast coal resources may not only be untapped, but the country will also get nothing from abandoning it.
To persuade coal-dependent countries to join the plan to phase out the commodity, rich nations led by the United Kingdom promised a raft of financial support.
South Africa, which depends on coal for 85% of its power generation, received a groundbreaking $8.5bn support to transition to clean energy on Tuesday. This has buoyed other countries depending on coal to ramp up their commitments.
“Securing a 190-strong coalition to phase out coal power and end support for new coal power plants and the Just Transition Declaration signed today, show a real international commitment to not leave any nation behind,” said Alok Sharma, COP26 President.
“Together we can accelerate access to electricity for more than three-quarters of a billion people who currently lack access, consigning energy poverty to history as we create the clean power future needed to keep 1.5 alive,” he said.
In 2019, 37% of the total energy produced in the world came from burning coal, but as of today, a new pledge has been signed by over 40 countries at COP26 to move away from coal as an energy source to more renewable energy sources.
Signatories to the pledge include Indonesia, Vietnam, Poland, South Korea, Egypt, Spain, Nepal, Singapore, Chile and Ukraine, and South Africa.
As part of the pledge, all signing nations are now committed to ending all investment in new coal power both at home and abroad, with additional promises to phase out coal in developed countries by 2030 and developing countries by 2040.
“The world is moving in the right direction, standing ready to seal coal’s fate and embrace environmental and economic benefits of building a future that is powered by clean energy,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state for business, energy, and industrial strategy of the United Kingdom.
A just transition to clean energy and the rapid phase-out of coal has been at the heart of the COP26 talks as part of its efforts to minimize temperature rises in line with the Paris Agreement. The breadth of commitments in Glasgow on Thursday at Energy Day signal the world is moving towards a renewable future.
In a new ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement’, countries also committed to scaling up clean power and ensuring a just transition away from coal.
Banks and financial institutions also made landmark commitments at COP26 today to end the funding of unabated coal, including major international lenders like HSBC, Fidelity International, and Ethos.
At the ongoing COP26, China, Japan, and South Korea have announced that they would end overseas coal financing which now means all significant public international financing for coal power has effectively ended.
In addition, a group of 25 countries including COP26 partners Italy, Canada, the United States, and Denmark together with public finance institutions has signed a UK-led joint statement committing to ending international public support for the unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022 and instead prioritizing support for the clean energy transition.
Developing countries including Ethiopia, Fiji, and the Marshall Islands offered their support, signaling growing unity. This is an inclusive agenda that must recognize the development and energy needs of all economies.
This is a historic step. It is the first time a COP presidency has prioritized this issue and put a bold end date on international fossil fuel finance. COP26 has set a new gold standard on the Paris Alignment of international public finance and sends a clear signal for private investors to follow.
On Thursday, 28 new members also signed up to the world’s largest alliance on phasing out coal. The Powering Past Coal Alliance was launched and co-chaired by the UK and Canada. New members include Chile and Singapore, joining more than 160 countries, sub-nationals, and businesses.
Twenty new countries, including Vietnam, Morocco, and Poland committed to building no new coal plants, matching similar announcements over the past year by Pakistan, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and building on the No New Coal Power Compact launched in September by Sri Lanka, Chile, Montenegro and European partners.
There has been a 76% drop in the number of new coal plants planned globally over the last six years since the Paris Agreement was adopted, said the UN. This equates to the cancellation of more than 1000GW of new coal plants.
In separate announcements, major emerging economies today took significant steps to move from coal to clean power. India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Africa announced partnerships with the Climate Investment Funds to accelerate their transitions away from coal power, backed by a dedicated $2bn facility.
Indonesia and the Philippines announced pioneering partnerships with the Asian Development Bank to support the early retirement of coal plants.
This story was originally published by BusinessDay Nigeria on November 4, 2021. It was produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.
Banner image: A coal deposit / Credit: Only Line via Flickr.