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Climate breakthrough: G7 commits to close coal plants by 2035

Ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) nations have reached an agreement to close all their coal plants by 2035, as announced by a UK minister on Monday. This decision marks a major climate policy breakthrough that could potentially encourage other countries to follow suit.

The commitment to set a definitive end date for coal usage, which is the most climate-polluting fossil fuel, was a significant point of contention in past international climate discussions.

Historic agreement on coal plants

“We do have an agreement to phase out coal in the first half of the 2030s,” said Andrew Bowie, a UK minister at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero

“This is, by the way, a historic agreement, something that we weren’t able to achieve at COP28 in Dubai last year. So, to have the G7 nations come around the table to send that signal to the world – that we, the advanced economies of the world are committed to phasing out coal by the early 2030s – is quite incredible.”

Coal is on its way out in the U.S.

This agreement is particularly important as it aligns with recent regulatory actions by the Environmental Protection Agency, which require coal-fired power plants to significantly reduce their climate pollution or shut down by 2039.

“Coming just days after the EPA released proposed new rules that will essentially lead to an accelerated phaseout schedule for most coal plants, this G7 commitment is a further confirmation from the US that coal is on its way out sooner rather than later,” said Katrine Petersen, a senior policy advisor at climate think tank E3G.

Long journey to phase out coal plants

The commitment also represents a major step for Japan, which was the only G7 country without a clear commitment to transition away from coal, and where coal constituted 32% of its electricity generation in 2023. Many of the other G7 nations have already put plans in place to phase out fossil fuel, with coal accounting for about 16% of the G7’s electricity.

“This is another nail in the coffin for coal,” said Dave Jones, the Ember’s Global Insights program director. “The journey to phase out coal power has been long: it’s been over seven years since the UK, France, Italy, and Canada committed to phase out coal power, so it’s good to see the United States and especially Japan at last be more explicit on their intentions.”

Failure to establish an end date

Despite the international agreement achieved at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai to transition away from fossil fuels, the failure to establish a specific end date for coal usage was viewed as a significant oversight. The ongoing meetings in Turin, involving energy, environment, and climate ministers, are expected to conclude on Tuesday.

The G7, which consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with the European Union having a special status, often sets the tone for global climate policy. Their decisions not only impact the broader G20, which includes major emitters like China and India and major fossil fuel producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, but also set precedents that influence global environmental strategies.

Impacts of coal-fired power plants

Coal plants are considered harmful for several reasons, primarily due to their significant impact on the environment and human health.

Air pollution

Coal plants emit a variety of harmful pollutants into the air, including sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and mercury. These pollutants can lead to respiratory problems, heart disease, and other serious health issues in humans. They also contribute to the formation of acid rain and smog.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Coal plants are major sources of carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change. Coal-burning power plants are one of the largest sources of carbon emissions worldwide.

Water pollution

The process of burning coal and disposing of coal ash (the residue left after coal is burned) can lead to water pollution. Contaminants such as heavy metals can leach into groundwater and surface water, affecting both aquatic life and human populations who rely on these water sources.

Land degradation

Coal mining, which supplies the coal plants, often results in significant environmental impacts, including deforestation, soil erosion, and habitat destruction. The disposal of coal ash can also contaminate landscapes and ecosystems.

Health impact on communities

Communities near coal plants and coal mines often experience disproportionate health problems due to their exposure to pollutants and toxic substances. This can lead to increased rates of lung diseases, heart conditions, and other health issues.


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