Prospects for powering past coal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To keep global warming within 1.5 °C of pre-industrial levels, there needs to be a substantial decline in the use of coal power by 20301,2 and in most scenarios, complete cessation by 2050. The members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA), launched in 2017 at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, are committed to “phasing out existing unabated coal power generation and a moratorium on new coal power gen- eration without operational carbon capture and storage”. The alliance has been hailed as a ‘political watershed’ and a new ‘anti-fossil fuel norm’. Here we estimate that the premature retirement of power plants pledged by PPCA members would cut emissions by 1.6 GtCO2, which is 150 times less than globally committed emissions from existing coal power plants. We also investigated the prospect of major coal consumers join- ing the PPCA by systematically comparing members to non- members. PPCA members extract and use less coal and have older power plants, but this alone does not fully explain their pledges to phase out coal power. The members of the alliance are also wealthier and have more transparent and indepen- dent governments. Thus, what sets them aside from major coal consumers, such as China and India, are both lower costs of coal phase-out and a higher capacity to bear these costs.


  • Jessica Jewell
  • Vadim Vinichenko
  • Lola Nacke
  • Aleh Cherp
External organisations
  • Chalmers University of Technology
  • University of Bergen
  • International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • Central European University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Climate Research


  • coal, energy, climate
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)592-597
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number8
Early online date2019 Jul 1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch

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