In the middle of a global energy squeeze, more than 40 countries at COP26 summit agree to end coal power plants
11/09/2021 // Ramon Tomey // Views

More than 40 countries present at the 2021 COP26 climate summit in the U.K. have agreed to phase out coal-fired power. Large economies committed to doing so in the 2030s, while smaller ones committed to eschew coal in the 2040s.

The U.K., which hosted the summit held at Glasgow in Scotland, made "consigning coal to history" a key focus of the conference. However, critics have pointed out that Australia, China, India and the U.S. have not made such commitments to lower their coal output.

British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said during the conference: "Today marks a milestone moment in our global efforts to tackle climate change, as nations from all corners of the world unite in Glasgow to declare that coal has no part to play in our future power generation. Today's ambitious commitments made by our international partners demonstrate that the end of coal is in sight."

The U.K. forged several deals during the summit – among them commitments from many countries both developing and developed, to stop the use of coal. More than 20 governments – including the U.S. and Denmark – agreed to stop financing coal development by the end of 2022. The estimated £5.85 billion ($8 billion) saved yearly would be then diverted into clean energy investments.

According to the Guardian, the U.K. focused on four particular areas – cash, coal, cars and trees – in its pivot to keep carbon emissions under 1.5 C. Espoused by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the focus on the four areas is expected to produce "key progress in tackling the climate crisis." (Related: HYPOCRITES: Climate change conference will use coal-powered charging stations and diesel generators to charge electric vehicles.)


Despite the promising outcomes at the COP26 summit, others remarked that they're not enough. Jamie Peters, campaign director at Friends of the Earth, said that "coal is basically allowed to continue as normal for years yet." Meanwhile, Elif Gunduzyeli of Climate Action Europe said that a 2030 phaseout deadline for coal "should be a minimum."

Dropping coal entirely not a viable option for developing nations

Alongside the Philippines and South Africa, Indonesia did not sign up to phase out coal entirely during the summit. Instead, the three nations committed to retiring many of their operational coal-fired power plants early. (Related: Green policies return the world to coal.)

Eschewing coal 100 percent is not a viable option for developing nations. Coal remains a cheaper energy source for these countries than renewable energy sources. With a cheaper power source, food manufacturers can keep food prices low. Any increases in energy cost would be passed to consumers as higher product prices.

A June 2021 article by explained why Indonesia cannot simply decommission its operational coal-fired power plants.

According to state-owned investment bank Bahana Sekuritas, renewable energy costs 12 to 16 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), whereas energy from coal only costs four to six cents per kWh. The bank also pointed out that renewable industry infrastructure called for high levels of investment on Indonesia's part.

Rida Yasser, assistant deputy for energy at the office of Indonesian Ministry of Investment, also highlighted the difficulty of adopting clean energy. She said during a May 28 online event: "Energy transition needs to be positively beneficial for the country. We shouldn't commit [financial] suicide … [and] we shouldn't have to incur financial loss to our own country in order to clean our energy."

Yasser added that affordable energy is important to kick-start Indonesia's economy. The archipelago's economy fell into its first recession in more than 20 years as a result of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "We need to rebound, [and] we need all the power that we can get," she said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Member of Parliament (MP) Mulyanto said he was concerned that dropping coal power abruptly would lead to a sharp increase in electricity prices for households. With higher electricity prices from renewable sources, household budget allocations for food would decrease as a result.

"Don't let [the coal power phase-out] be used to justify raising the electricity price during this pandemic that's still ongoing. It's a pity if the public has to bear the brunt of rising electricity prices," Mulyanto warned. has more articles about the push to drop coal-fired power without considering its repercussions.

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