Europe’s national energy utilities have pledged that no more coal-fired power plants will be built in Europe after 2020. The announcement was made at a press conference in Brussels last week held by the Union of the Electricity Industry, Eurelectric, which represents 3,500 European utilities companies. Poland and Greece were the only two countries of the 28 currently in the European Union which didn’t sign up to the pledge.
“This commitment to decarbonise electricity generation, together with the electrification of key sectors, such as heating, cooling and transport, will make a major contribution to help Europe meet its climate change targets,” Eurelectric said in a statement.
As part of its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, the EU aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Coal produces the most CO2 of any fossil fuel when burned, and every year 22,000 premature deaths are caused in Europe by the sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter produced by coal-fired power plants.
In Poland, which plans to continue investing in coal beyond 2020, pollution causes more deaths than car accidents.
Coal has been losing out to renewable energy as the cost of wind and solar has fallen precipitously over the last decade resulting in a two-thirds fall in the number of new coal plants being constructed around the world in 2016. In 2015 77% of new energy capacity added in Europe was from renewable sources.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Wendel Trio of Climate Action Network Europe said “It is now clear that there is no future for coal in the EU, the question is: what is the date for its phase out in the EU, and how hard will the coal industry fight to keep plants open, even if they are no longer economically viable?”