GLASGOW, Scotland – Two major deals announced on Thursday signal progress by some nations in the all-important move away from fossil fuels to avert the worst effects of climate change.
The agreements, unveiled at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, included one of 25 countries, including the United States and Canada, signing pledges to cease public funding of fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of next year. The United Kingdom also presented its so-called Declaration on the transition from coal to clean electricity, which included new commitments from 23 countries – including Poland, South Korea and Indonesia – to phase out coal power.
“I think we can say today that the end of coal is in sight,” said Alok Sharma, president of this year’s climate summit known as the 26th “Conference of the Parties” or COP26.
Although optimism about how far these deals can go is dampened by inconsistent coal phase-out schedules and reservations about funding for fossil fuel projects abroad, the global economy’s transition from fossil fuels is critical to the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Jennifer Layke, global energy director at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit research organization, called the agreement to end funding for oil, gas and coal projects abroad “a critical step forward.”
“As the clean energy transition accelerates, it is imperative that we accelerate access to energy in developing countries and ensure a just transition that uplifts everyone and leaves no one behind,” she said in a statement.
The United States’ participation in the agreement is significant as the government allocates billions of dollars each year to fund fossil fuel projects around the world. The newly announced deal is also more aggressive than a similar promise made by the G-20 this year that only focused on coal projects abroad.
Independent climate think tank E3G said the COP26 deal could cause countries and public financial institutions to shift more than $ 15 billion in clean energy funding.
However, the agreement is not binding and has not been signed by several major energy financiers abroad, including China, Japan, Germany and South Korea. It also does not completely exclude public support for such projects under “limited and well-defined circumstances”, according to a United Kingdom Declarationthat hosts the climate summit.
The UK-led Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement obliges countries to stop investing in new coal-fired power plants at home and abroad. The nations also commit to phasing out coal energy in the 2030s for major economies and in the 2040s for the rest of the world.
UK Economy and Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said in a statement that developments show that the world is “moving in the right direction”.
“Today marks a milestone in our global efforts to fight climate change,” he said, “when nations from all corners of the world come together in Glasgow to declare that coal is not a part of our future electricity generation.”