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Can Europe go coal-free?

By 2030, solar and wind power will be the cheapest source of new electricity in most parts of the world, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. But wide adoption of renewables for new generation won’t be enough. To keep temperature from rising more than 2-degrees Celsius — the goal of global climate accord reached in Paris — Europe needs to completely phase out existing coal plants by 2030.

“The EU and OECD would need to stop using coal for electricity generation by 2030,” concludes a new report by Climate Analytics. As it stands, coal use in Europe is actually increasing. The continent is on track to exceed its emissions budget — by a lot. The 11 new plants on the drawing boards would push EU emissions to nearly double the level needed to meet the 2-degree goal, says Dr Michiel Schaeffer, Climate Analytics’ science director.

Climate Analytics’ handy chart on page 21 of the report identifies Europe’s coal plants and suggests their phaseout dates. The front lines of this war on coal are Germany and Poland, which have more than half of Europe’s current coal capacity and half of the nine gigawatts of planned capacity.

Europe is a global test case for the feasibility of shutting down operating coal-fired plants as ever-less expensive renewables come on line. The report calls for China to phase out coal by 2040 and the rest of the world, including emerging economies, by 2050.

Photo credit: Volker Hartmann/Getty Images

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