(Bloomberg) — Never in human history has a ton of coal cost more. Governments and utilities across the globe are willing to pay record sums to literally keep the lights on. That’s the bruising reality that global leaders must face at the high-stakes climate talks in Glasgow this month as hopes fade for a deal to end the world’s reliance on the dirtiest fuel.
The burning of coal represents the biggest single obstacle to meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5C. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls it a “deadly addiction,” and COP26 president Alok Sharma has urged leaders to “consign coal to history.”
There’s been some progress already — the global pipeline of new coal-fired power plants has shrunk almost 70% since 2015. President Xi Jinping announced last month China will stop building coal-fired power plants abroad, while Germany now wants to end its use of coal by the end of this decade and more than 40 countries have committed to “no new coal.”
Renewable-energy is expanding sharply. But the dramatic rally in prices in recent weeks shows ever more clearly that it’s nowhere near enough. Humanity remains deeply dependent on coal.
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