Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A protest against a coal-powered power plant in Melbourne, Australia, in 2010.

A protest against a coal-powered power plant in Melbourne, Australia, in 2010. (Photo: Takver/flickr/cc)

Coal in 'Freefall' Worldwide, Report Finds

'No amount of rhetoric from Donald Trump will be able to stop the fall of coal in the U.S. and across the globe'

Nika Knight Beauchamp

The coal industry is in "freefall" worldwide, the latest annual survey from environmental groups Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and CoalSwarm finds.

"The staggering uptick in clean energy and reduction in the new coal plant pipeline is even more proof that coal isn't just bad for public health and the environment—it's bad for the bottom line," said Nicole Ghio, senior campaigner for the Sierra Club's International Climate and Energy Campaign, in a statement. "Markets are demanding clean energy, and no amount of rhetoric from [President] Donald Trump will be able to stop the fall of coal in the U.S. and across the globe."

The report (pdf) published Wednesday examined proposed and existing coal projects around the globe, discovering a huge drop "in all stages of coal plant development, including pre-construction planning, construction starts, and in-progress construction."

According to the survey, new construction and coal plant permits in China and India have sharply dropped off, while aging coal plants were retired across the U.S. and Europe. (The U.S. saw its 250th coal plant retirement on Monday.)

"This has been a messy year, and an unusual one," said Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm, in a statement. "It's not normal to see construction frozen at scores of locations, but central authorities in China and bankers in India have come to recognize overbuilding of coal plants is a major waste of resources. However abrupt, the shift from fossil fuels to clean sources in the power sector is a positive one for health, climate security, and jobs. And by all indications, the shift is unstoppable."

"2016 marked a veritable turning point," said Lauri Myllyvirta, senior global campaigner on Coal and Air Pollution at Greenpeace. "China all but stopped new coal projects after astonishing clean energy growth has made new coal-fired power plants redundant, with all additional power needs covered from non-fossil sources since 2013. Closures of old coal plants drove major emission reductions especially in the U.S. and U.K., while Belgium and Ontario became entirely coal-free and three G8 countries announced deadlines for coal phase-outs."

The decline of coal has been felt for decades in places like rural West Virginia, and while Trump campaigned on a promise to revive the industry, the survey shows that its decline may be inevitable—while the market share of renewable energy, and potential for sustainable jobs in that sector, continues to rise.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientist Says Some Coral Reefs Can Be Saved 'If We Take Immediate Action'

"People need to be aware this is coming up fast, and the time to explore mitigation techniques is now," warns another researcher behind a recently published study.

Jessica Corbett ·


Ro Khanna Lays Out New Vision for American Manufacturing and Economic Progress

"Embracing a New Economic Patriotism plan isn't just about jobs. It's about unifying Americans—from the coasts to the heartland—with a shared purpose."

Brett Wilkins ·


Peace Groups Push US to Use 'All Points of Leverage' to End Saudi Blockade of Yemen

"The Biden administration must take urgent action to compel Saudi Arabia to completely lift this blockade as a humanitarian act, for the sake of millions of Yemenis in desperate need."

Jessica Corbett ·


Freelance Photographer Says He Was Fired by NYT Over Support for Palestinian Resistance

"What is taking place is a systematic effort to distort the image of Palestinian journalists as being incapable of trustworthiness and integrity, simply because we cover the human rights violations that the Palestinian people undergo on a daily basis at hands of the Israeli army."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Cruel Disregard for Life': Rights Groups Condemn Iran's Deadly Attacks on Protesters

Human Rights Watch documented lethal repression by government forces against protesters "in largely peaceful and often crowded settings, altogether killing and injuring hundreds."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo