“From a climate and health perspective, the trend toward a declining coal power fleet is encouraging, but not happening fast enough,” according to Ted Nace director of CoalSwarm, a network of researchers on fossil fuels.
Thomson Reuters Foundation cited a report by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and CoalSwarm, saying the start of new builds dropped by 73% between 2015 and 2017, as China tightened restrictions on coal and a loss of private finance froze 17 construction sites in India.
Furthermore, newly completed coal plants also fell 41% and the number of plants in planning dropped by 59%.
However, to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperature rise in this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, construction must end and existing plants must retire faster, the report advised.
Global coal capacity growing
According to the World Coal Association, global coal capacity over the 12 month grew by 2%. Read more: The transition to a low carbon future must be rapid, and must be for everyone
Aging coal plants in Europe and the United States are being replaced by highly efficient plants in China and Asia.
“In the last five years as China became the largest solar and wind market in the world, it also added 229MW of coal power, thus increasing coal generation by a third,” said Benjamin Sporton, head of the World Coal Association.
With continued global reliance on coal, carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies must be developed to reduce fossil fuel emissions, Sporton said.
“We … need to be resolute in our efforts to accelerate the deployment of CCS technologies, which will be critical to achieving global climate objectives,” he said.
CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels and burying it underground so that it does not enter the atmosphere.
The campaign groups said global coal capacity is likely to start shrinking in 2022, when the number of plants retired is expected to outstrip those being built.