Europe will overshoot emissions targets without drastic action to halt use of coal power within the next 15 years, study suggests
The EU will not meet its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement unless it closes all of its 315 coal-fired power plants by 2031, according to new analysis released yesterday by research institute Climate Analytics.
The research suggests Europe’s coal-fired power plants will have to be closed before the end of their natural lifespan if the EU is to keep emissions in line with the Paris climate goals of limiting global warming to “well below” two degrees.
According to Climate Analytics, the Paris target breaks down to a 6.5Gt carbon budget for the EU’s coal power sector through to 2050. If all current coal plants are allowed to continue running until the end of their life, the EU will overshoot this budget by 85 per cent.
“Not only would existing coal plants exceed the EU’s emissions budget, but the eleven planned and announced plants would raise EU emissions to almost twice the levels required to keep warming to the Paris Agreement’s long term temperature goal,” warned Dr Michiel Schaeffer, science director at Climate Analytics.
To stay within its carbon budgets the EU will need to completely close all its coal-fired power plants by 2031, switching off 25 per cent of these by the end of this decade.
The UK has already shut down the majority of its coal fired power plants, with coal now making up less than four per cent of the UK’s electricity generation mix. The UK government has promised to phase out coal-fired power completely by 2025.
However, coal power is more prominent across the rest of Europe, particularly in Germany and Poland, which together are responsible for 51 per cent of installed coal capacity in the Union.
In order to phase coal out completely across the EU, Climate Analytics suggests more policy incentives must be offered, including reforms to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and more ambitious renewables targets.
In related news, a senior EU ETS official has said Britain is unlikely to be able to remain in the cap-and-trade programme after Brexit, landing a further blow to the already beleaguered scheme.
Despite support from utilities who argue the scheme sends an important market signal to encourage investment in cleaner energy sources, Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan – who is leading on post-2020 reforms to the ETS – said on a webcast yesterday he believed it is unlikely the UK “will have a future” in the ETS.
The UK is the second largest emitter in the ETS and purchases a significant share of the credits from the market. Earlier this week executives warned an exit from the ETS could disrupt the energy market, increase decarbonisation costs and even destabilise the ETS itself. “If the UK does leave the EU ETS then it runs a real risk of ETS being weakened, and weakened quite substantially,” said Sara Vaughan, strategy and corporate affairs director at E.ON UK.