Reports of coal's terminal decline may be exaggerated

Peer Reviewed
31 January 2018

Ottmar Edenhofer, Jan Christoph Steckel, Michael Jakob, Christoph Bertram

We estimate the cumulative future emissions expected to be released by coal power plants that are currently under construction, announced, or planned. Even though coal consumption has recently declined and plans to build new coal-fired capacities have been shelved, constructing all these planned coal-fired power plants would endanger national and international climate targets. Plans to build new coal-fired power capacity would likely undermine the credibility of some countries' (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the UNFCCC. If all the coal-fired power plants that are currently planned were built, the carbon budget for reaching the 2 °C temperature target would nearly be depleted. Propositions about 'coal's terminal decline' may thereby be premature. The phase-out of coal requires dedicated and well-designed policies. We discuss the political economy of policy options that could avoid a continued build-up of coal-fired power plants.

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Sustainable Development Goals
Publication reference
Edenhofer, O., Steckel, J. C., Jakob, M., & Bertram, C. (2018). Reports of coal’s terminal decline may be exaggerated. Environmental Research Letters, 13(2), 024019. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aaa3a2

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Publication | 5 May 2020