GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) – Several major coal-burning countries have pledged for the first time to phase out highly polluting fossil fuels or accelerate existing plans, while others have pledged to stop investing in new coal-fired power plants.
UK business secretary Quasi Quarteng said late Wednesday that commitments made on the sidelines of the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland mean “the end of coal is near.” But critics have noted that several major economies have yet to set a date to end their dependence on fuel, which is the main source of warming emissions.
The British government said that promises to set new or earlier dates for the cessation of coal use came from countries such as Poland, Ukraine, Vietnam and Chile. Further details on which countries are doing that were to be announced Thursday at a conference known as COP26.
While Quarteng called the agreements “a milestone in our global efforts to combat climate change,” his counterpart from the opposition Labor Party said there were “glaring gaps,” such as a lack of commitment from major issuers to halt domestic coal growth.
Labor spokesman Ed Miliband also noted that there were no new commitments to phase out oil and gas, other major fossil fuels, he said.
LIVE UPDATES: Latest news from COP26 Climate Change Conference
Current goals to curb global warming require countries to stop burning coal, but many major economies, including the United States, China, India and Japan, have not set official dates to stop using coal.
However, experts said that this and other announcements made so far October 31 – November. The 12th summit showed a growing trend towards coal dumping.
“Today’s commitment will help pivot entire continents on the road to coal phase-out,” said Dave Jones of think tank Ember.
Poland is the second largest consumer of coal in Europe after Germany, which intends to phase out coal in 2030. Although the Polish government previously agreed to end the use of coal by 2049, the new commitment will push that deadline to a minimum of ten years.
Ukraine, the third largest coal consumer in Europe, is also postponing the coal mining deadline from 2050 to 2035.
READ MORE: Why China’s coal cutoff timing may be too slow to help climate targets
“The progress on coal demonstrated at COP26 demonstrates that the conditions are ripe for a global coal yield,” said Leo Roberts, Senior Research Fellow at E3G Environmental Think Tank.
“We now need to see a massive expansion of clean energy financing coming, and available quickly so that all countries can confidently move from coal to clean energy,” he added.
But some environmental activists said the commitments they made were not enough.
“Emissions from oil and gas are already well above coal and are growing rapidly, while coal is already starting to decline,” said Murray Worthy of Global Witness. “This is a small step forward when a giant leap was required.”
The coal agreements are not part of the formal UN talks in Glasgow. But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose country is hosting the conference, said he wants to cut deals on coal, cars, trees and cash.
Hui contributed from London.