Milestone marks retirement commitments for 162 of 324 coal plants on the continent since 2016, accelerating Europe’s clean energy transition ahead of COP26
NEW YORK, NY & BRUSSELS – Bloomberg Philanthropies and Europe Beyond Coal announced today that 162 of Europe’s 324 coal plants have closed or confirmed pre-2030 retirements, marking the halfway point in the campaign to retire all coal plants on the continent by 2030 at the latest. This is a major milestone ahead of this year’s U.N. Climate Summit, COP26, and demonstrates the global momentum in the transition away from fossil fuels consistent with the United Nations Secretary-General’s call to phase-out coal in OECD countries by 2030 and everywhere else by 2040.
“Coal pollution is the single biggest contributor to climate change and a major threat to people’s health, so the accelerating wave of coal plant closures in Europe is very encouraging,” Michael R. Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and 108th Mayor of New York City said. “As we approach the pivotal COP26 summit in November, local communities are increasingly joining forces with cities, states, businesses, and national governments to speed up the transition to a healthy, clean energy future. Today’s milestone in Europe shows how far we’ve come in a short time – and how other countries can step up to save lives, fight climate change, and strengthen their economies.”
Launched in 2017, Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups across 27 European Union nations, the United Kingdom, the Western Balkans, and Turkey working to phase-out coal. Supported through a $50 million commitment from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the campaign works to close coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects, and accelerate a just transition to renewable energy.
“It’s heartening to see that we’re already in the endgame for the coal industry in Europe. Civil society has worked hard to get Europe on a pathway that respects the climate challenge, and more than halving coal capacity is a major milestone on this road. While some Governments and energy companies remain unprepared for the end of coal, with COP26 coming up they will be under pressure to put robust plans in place to arrive at a 2030 phase out at the latest, and to set Europe up for a renewables-based power system by 2035,” said Kathrin Gutmann, Europe Beyond Coal campaign director.
The landmark achievement was marked by Electricite de France SA’s announcement to shut its West Burton A coal plant in the United Kingdom next year, supporting efforts of the UK Government to phase-out coal entirely by 2024. To date, 14 European countries have announced Paris Agreement-compatible coal phase-out commitments, three of which are already coal power-free. Several more, including the Czech Republic and Slovenia, are also conducting public discussions to phase out coal power entirely.
Today, burning coal remains the single largest contributor to climate change, threatening not only the environment but also public health and the economy. Studies show that air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels was responsible for one in five deaths in 2018 and average life expectancy could increase by more than a year in a world free from fossil fuel emissions. In support of the European Green Deal, the European Commission has committed to reducing emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and becoming climate-neutral by 2050.
“There is no time to waste implementing the Green Deal to make Europe climate neutral by 2050 – and it will take the initiative of everyone to get there,” said Pascal Canfin, Chair of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament. “The Beyond Coal campaign has been instrumental to achieving this milestone of securing coal plant retirement commitments in Europe, a tremendous example of cross-border coordination that must continue as we transition to a clean energy economy that leaves no one behind.”
To improve air quality and public health as communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that European countries close all coal plants by 2030 at the latest and boost investment in sources of clean energy – tackling the climate crisis in line with the Paris Agreement while creating resilient, good-paying jobs that benefit local economies. Achieving the targets science demands to avoid climate change’s worst impacts requires a global coalition from governments, investors, NGOs, business leaders, and civil society.
In addition to supporting Europe Beyond Coal, Bloomberg Philanthropies has supported rapid progress in the United States to end America’s reliance on dirty coal and shift the U.S. power sector to a cleaner future. Since 2011, Bloomberg Philanthropies has invested over $174 million to support the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign helping to secure the retirement of 339 out of 530 – over 60% – of U.S. coal-fired plants. The success of Beyond Coal in Europe and the United States helped inspire the launch of campaigns in Australia in 2019 and South Korea and Japan last year. Earlier this month, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the Bloomberg Global Coal Countdown to track and count down the world’s remaining coal plant units.
“This 50% milestone is testament to the transformative work people all over the world are doing to build a better future — with healthier communities, powered by 100 percent clean energy,” said Cherelle Blazer, Senior Director of the International Climate and Policy Campaign at Sierra Club. “Here in the U.S., two-thirds of our coal plants are slated to retire, and we’ll keep doing our part to move beyond coal this decade, which is what the climate science demands. Europe’s progress is going to help build momentum in other places, like Japan, and we’ll keep working until the job is done.”
“Today’s news is the result of a tremendous effort from Europe Beyond Coal,” said Park Jee-hye, Director of Solutions for Our Climate. “The success of our European partners will further energize the Korea Beyond Coal campaign in our efforts to phase out 58 existing coal plants by 2030, stop the ongoing construction of seven new coal plants, and end financing for any more coal plants as South Korea and the global community accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.”
“The world has recognised that we need to rapidly shift from coal to renewable energy to have a chance at maintaining a safe climate, and Europe is leading the way,” said David Ritter, Greenpeace Australia-Pacific CEO, on behalf of the Australia Beyond Coal Alliance. “With 50% of Europe’s coal power stations set to close, Europe Beyond Coal has made an enormous step towards a safer, healthier future for all. The transition away from coal is crucial to global efforts to tackle climate change and offers extraordinary opportunities to support thriving communities in a renewable-powered economy.”
“Securing retirement commitments of half of Europe’s coal plants sends a strong signal to the world that the transition to clean energy is within our reach,” said Kimiko Hirata, International Director of the Kiko Network. “Japan Beyond Coal celebrates our sister campaign in Europe on this milestone that demonstrates the success of the Beyond Coal movement and global momentum toward a coal-free world.”
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 810 cities and 170 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.6 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok.