Study: EU must abandon coal power by 2030 to meet climate pledge

Germany and Poland together account for more than half of the EU's emissions from coal. [campact/Flickr]

The European Union must close all 315 of its coal-fired power plants by 2030 in order to meet its commitments under the Paris climate agreement, a research institute said Thursday.

The goal set at the December 2015 Paris climate conference to maintain average temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels requires the gradual closure of EU coal plants, Climate Analytics said.

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“The long-term temperature goal adopted under the Paris Agreement… requires a rapid decarbonisation of the global power sector and the phase-out of the last unabated coal-fired power plant in the EU by around 2030,” the report said.

Climate Analytics estimated that the EU’s carbon budget, which is how much carbon dioxide it can emit to stay under two degrees Celsius, is at 6.5 gigatonnes by 2050.

The institute said the EU will exceed the budget by 85% by then if it continues with current emissions rates at coal plants.

It said there were 315 coal plants across the 28-nation bloc, and that 11 newly announced plants would raise EU emissions to almost twice the levels required to limit temperature rises.

“We find the cheapest way for the EU to make the emissions cuts required to meet its Paris Agreement commitments is to phase out coal from the electricity sector, and replace this capacity with renewables and energy efficiency measures,” said Paola Yanguas Parra, a lead author of the report.

Parra said Germany and Poland had the most work to do as they were together responsible for 54% of emissions from coal.

Smog chokes coal-addicted Poland

The soupy grey smog shrouding Polish cities this winter is one of the most visible symptoms of the EU member’s addiction to coal, a deadly habit forcing many to stay indoors or don masks before venturing out.

The most polluting of all fossil fuels, coal is central to the Polish economy and provides 85% of the country’s energy.

Germany’s reliance on coal has increased, filling the gap left as nuclear power stations are decommissioned.