NEW REPORT: Global Coal Plant Development Freefall Sparks Renewed Hope On Climate Goals

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 
Cindy Carr, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3034 or cindy.carr@sierraclub.org
Ted Nace, CoalSwarm, (510) 331-8743 or ted@tednace.com
Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace, +86 157 1002 1563 or lauri.myllyvirta@greenpeace.org

NEW REPORT: Global Coal Plant Development Freefall Sparks Renewed Hope On Climate Goals

WASHINGTON - On the heels of the 250th coal-fired power plant retiring in the United States yesterday, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and CoalSwarm have released their third annual survey of the global coal plant pipeline, Boom and Bust 2017: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline. The report’s findings include a 62 percent drop in new coal plant construction starts globally, a 48 percent reduction in worldwide pre-construction activity, and an 85 percent decline in new Chinese coal plant permits.

Overall, the number of coal-fired power plants under development worldwide saw a dramatic drop in 2016. This is mainly due to shifting policies in Asia, including a dramatic clampdown on new coal plant projects by Chinese central authorities and financial retrenchment by coal plant backers in India. In China and India, construction is now frozen at over 100 project sites.

In addition the decline in new plant development, the survey also found a record-breaking 64 gigawatts of coal plant retirements in the past two years, mainly in the European Union and the U.S. -- the equivalent of nearly 120 large coal-fired units (see note).

According to the report, the combination of a slowed new coal plant pipeline and an increase in outdated coal plant retirements brings the possibility of holding global temperature increase to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels “within feasible reach,” provided countries continue to step up action.

“This has been a messy year, and an unusual one,” said Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm. “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.”

“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. “Markets are demanding clean energy, and no amount of rhetoric from Donald Trump will be able to stop the fall of coal in the U.S. and across the globe.”

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“2016 marked a veritable turning point,” saidLauri 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 UK, while Belgium and Ontario became entirely coal-free and three G8 countries announced deadlines for coal phase-outs.”

The report singles out Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Turkey as countries that have failed to develop their renewable energy sectors in step with their peers and continue to build and plan new highly polluting coal plants.

Note: A typical coal-fired generating unit is 500 megawatts, or 0.5 gigawatts, in size, with most power stations having two or more such units.

Read the report and translations here.

Read the Sierra Club’s blog here.

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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