Countries Phasing Out Coal for a Cleaner Energy Future

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Countries Phasing Out Coal for a Cleaner Energy Future

Coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel among the other three types, gas, coal, and oil, is the single largest source of carbon emissions and a primary contributor to air pollution.

The IEA 2023 report notes that the steep drop in coal demand during the height of the covid was replaced by a strong rebound when Russia invaded Ukraine driven by the energy crisis, reaching new levels in 2022 as the primary source of electricity generation, steelmaking, and cement production. Coal’s contribution to warming the planet from carbon emissions makes it essential to curb its use and replace it with a cleaner energy source.

The report forecasts that the demand for coal will decrease by 2026, driven by a sharp decline from developing economies, including the EU and the United States. However, demands from emerging economies like China and India will remain robust due to electricity demands. Overall, the agency predicts that the global coal demand will fall 2.3% by 2026, aided by renewable energy expansion.

Meeting the Paris Agreement

Suppose the world has to limit warming to 1.5°C as set by the Paris Agreement. In that case, coal, the most polluting fossil fuel responsible for producing 36% of electricity in 2022, must fall to 4% by 2030, within eight years, and be completely phased out by 2040, according to the calculations from Climate Action Tracker.

Can countries phase out coal in such a short period?

It is a tough challenge, but some countries have proven that eliminating coal within eight years is doable. The WRI article features the top 10 countries that successfully phased out coal quickly: Greece, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Romania, Germany, the United States and Chile.

Greece and the UK have achieved the fastest coal reductions among the ten countries, with the UK mirroring what is required to reduce coal use by less than 4% from 36% in 6 years. While the others have shown impressive reductions, only Portugal has reached zero coal power, the article notes.

The United States, the world’s largest economy, has also shown extraordinary success in phasing out coal, cutting half of its coal power use by half between 2014 and 2022 by replacing it with a combination of power sources – gas, solar, and wind. Chile, in tenth place, has only a decade ago seen a boom in coal plants; however, the country took a complete u-turn, retiring their coal plants early and replacing them with renewable energy, solar and wind.

While these countries have successfully replaced coal with clean energy, it may be more challenging in other countries like India (74%) and China (61%), which account for two-thirds of the world’s coal power generation. The coal capacity of these countries, India at 240GW and China at around 1,100 GW makes the transition challenging. Both countries also have a large domestic coal industry; China is home to 3.4 million coal miners, and India has 1.4 million. Successful transition also entails providing an alternative livelihood for these coal miners.

Just transition

The G7 countries, composed of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the US, Japan, and the UK, launched the Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs), setting aside $47 billion to help developing countries transition away from coal just and ethically.

This assistance can come in the form of “technical assistance to help countries develop policies conducive to clean energy investment; develop public-private partnerships to leverage private capital; and explore innovative financial mechanisms to de-risk private investments.” Additionally, “Multilateral Development Banks like the World Bank should also stand true to their commitments to stop funding coal and shift fully to funding renewables”, the article says.


Global coal demand expected to decline in coming years. (2023, December 15). IEA. Retrieved from

Jaeger, J. (2023 November 30). These 10 Countries Are Phasing Out Coal the Fastest. World Resources Institute. Retrieved from

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