Spain on Wednesday (30 June) joined an international campaign to set a date for closing all coal plants by 2030, signing up to a target it looks well-placed to beat by a wide margin.
The Powering Past Coal Alliance now counts 23 national governments among 133 members, all united by the desire to speed up the transition away from coal-fired power generation and contribute to reining in planet-warming carbon emissions.
North Macedonia and Montenegro have also joined the campaign, along with French asset manager Amundi and Canadian utility Capital Power Corp.
With abundant sunlight, blustery hillsides and vast plains, Spain is transforming its energy system to rely on renewable sources and expects to have closed 85% of its total coal capacity by 2022.
Last month, the United States and European Union pledged to develop green technologies but steered clear of setting a firm end-date for burning coal.
However, the UK, said on Wednesday that it aimed to end the use of coal in electricity generation by 2024.
Spain’s Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera has long argued that coal will fade out as the costs of emissions permits climb and other sources become ever cheaper. A national climate plan submitted to Brussels last year foresees coal capacity dwindling to zero by 2030.
“We need to take concrete steps towards a global coal power phase-out at COP26 in Glasgow,” Ribera said on Wednesday, referring to a UN conference due in the autumn.
Research group Ember welcomed Spain’s entry into the alliance. “Spain making a 2030 commitment, rather than passively relying on market forces, adds crucial momentum,” said Charles Moore from the think tank.
It puts pressure on European laggards, like Germany, to join a united block on the coal phase-out, according to the think tank.
Germany has been criticised for its phase-out date of 2038 – well past the Paris Agreement cut off date for coal, which is 2030 for developed countries.
Other EU countries are also falling behind. The Czech Republic also plans a phase-out by 2038, despite hopes this could have been earlier, and Poland is yet to announce a phase-out date for all its coal capacity.
Coal burning is extremely damaging to the environment, producing around double the amount of CO2 than natural gas in addition to particulates that contribute to air pollution.
There are fears that a global failure to close coal plants could mean the world misses the target laid out in the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial times.
As of March, half of Europe’s 324 coal-fuelled power plants have either closed or announced a retirement date before 2030, according to Europe Beyond Coal, a campaign group.