King Coal has long been climate campaigners’ public enemy No 1. It is the most carbon-intensive form of power generation and it is responsible for nearly half of carbon emissions from energy use, including from fuels used for transport and heating as well as power. But with powerful lobbies from across the political spectrum – bringing together mine owners and mining trade unions – it has remained stubbornly persistent despite the threat its use poses to the global climate.
The past six months have brought some good news for those eager to see coal kicked out of the energy system. At the end of the year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that global consumption had fallen by around 7 per cent between 2018 and 2020. During December’s Climate Action Summit, hosted by the UK government, Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, vowed his country would scrap plans for new coal-fired power plants. His pledge follows the abandonment of coal power projects in Bangladesh, Kenya, Egypt and Vietnam.
“[Approximately] 90 per cent of all coal-fired power plants built in Asia in the last five years were underpinned by export credit agency finance,” says Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). All three of those countries are shutting their cheque books, under pressure to act on climate change.