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Coal gets the cold shoulder as coal power fleets on course to be 56% smaller than expected

In Paris in 2015 world governments agreed to do what they could to keep global heating to below 2°C, and ideally to below 1.5°C. Doing this would not prevent climate change but it should keep it from becoming apocalyptic.

The biggest chunk of that work would be in changing how the world gets its energy. Right now coal-fired power plants do most of that work. They are also the worst single source of avoidable carbon emissions. 

Despite all the cheering in Paris, countries kept planning new coal-fired power plants. At that point more than 1 500 gigawatts of capacity was planned, more than the capacity of the whole of China. For perspective, the world’s biggest plants max out at 5 000 megawatts.

But it’s finally starting to look like they’re on the way out.

Research released last week found three-quarters of that planned capacity has since been scrapped. As a result, the world’s coal power fleet is on course to be 56% smaller than was expected six years ago.

Forty-four countries have no plans to build plants. This is before countries start decommissioning old plants. And before companies shut down plants that can’t make electricity cheaper than renewable alternatives. That research was published by three climate groups: E3G, Global Energy Monitor and Ember.

In the same week, Climate Action Tracker released its number crunching about the climate plans of nearly 60 countries, which are responsible for 80% of all carbon emissions. The Europe-based group is the gold standard in checking up what countries are doing. It does this by looking at the plans countries submit as part of the Paris Agreement, known as nationally determined contributions.

Only Gambia has a plan that, if everyone acted the same way, would see global heating kept to below 1.5 °C

All other countries are polluting at a level that would ensure dangerous climate change. Just six countries have plans listed by the group as “nearly sufficient”.  

This article first appeared on The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here.

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian
The Continent
The Continent is a free weekly newspaper published by the Adamela Trust in partnership with the Mail & Guardian.

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