In the latest news from COP26 in Glasgow, more than 40 countries have agreed to quit coal-fired power. Coal is the single biggest contributor to climate change and there have been calls for countries to switch to clean energy for many years now in the fight against global warming.

What is COP26?

If you have somehow managed to miss the massive media coverage that has surrounded the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), the purpose of the summit is to bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The UK is playing host to COP26 in Glasgow from 31st October – 12th November 2021. Hundreds of delegates have gathered to discuss how we can all work together to preserve our planet for future generations.

Which countries have signed up?

Several major coal using countries including Poland, Vietnam and Chile are among those to make the commitment to move away from coal. However, some of the biggest coal-dependent countries, including Australia, India, China, and the US have not made the pledge.

The signatories have committed to ending all investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationally. Furthermore, they have agreed to phase out coal power in the 2030s for major economies, and the 2040s for poorer nations.

Is it going to help?

UK Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng optimistically claimed ‘the end of coal is in sight. The world is moving in the right direction, standing ready to seal coal’s fate and embrace the environmental and economic benefits of building a future that is powered by clean energy.’

However, there are critics of the pledge who believe it does not go far enough to phase out coal usage. Juan Pablo Osornio, head of Greenpeace’s delegation at COP26, has advised that the statement still ‘falls well short’ of what is needed and claimed that ‘the small print seemingly gives countries enormous leeway to pick their own phase-out date.’

Similarly, Ed Miliband, UK Shadow Business Secretary, noted the ‘glaring gaps’ from China and other non-contributors who have made no such commitment to phase out coal. Miliband also commented that there had been no mention of moving away from oil and gas, also massive contributors to climate change.

The pledge to quit coal is undoubtedly a step in the right direction in the fight against the climate crisis. However, it remains to be seen whether this will be enough, given the lack of involvement of many of the most coal dependent nations, and whether those countries that have signed up are committed to upholding their end of the bargain.

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