The battle to end coal-burning, backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, is expanding out of the US and around the world in its bid to reduce the global warming threat posed by the most polluting fossil fuel.
Bloomberg, a UN special envoy on climate change and former mayor of New York city, has funded a $164m campaign in the US since 2010, during which time more than half the nation’s coal-fired power plants have been closed.
On Thursday, he announced a $50m (£38m) plan to expand the programme into Europe and then the rest of the world. The money will support grassroots campaigns, research on the health impacts of coal and legal action against coal plants that are breaking pollution rules.
Bloomberg is attending the global climate change summit in Bonn, Germany, where he is leading a group of states, cities and businesses pledging action in the US despite President Donald Trump’s opposition.
Coal burning still accounts for about 20% of all of the European Union’s carbon emissions, with Germany and Poland by far the biggest polluters. Bloomberg’s initiative aims to speed up the phase-out of coal by capitalising on the fast falling costs of renewable energy alternatives and rising concerns about air pollution.
Where action is being taken, such as in the UK, coal is declining rapidly. Until recently, the UK was Europe’s third biggest coal polluter, with the fuel providing 40% of the nation’s electricity, but this has fallen to 2% in just five years. In Germany, coal emissions have only been falling slowly, though on Tuesday the city of Munich voted to close its coal-powered plant 13 years early.
“Coal is the single biggest polluter,” Bloomberg told the Guardian. “If you could just replace coal with any other fuel, you would make an enormous difference in the outlook for climate change.”