The “end of coal is in sight,” declared a press release last week from the United Kingdom, host of the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow. That statement is true in some places, such as Canada – but elsewhere, seeing the end of coal requires magic binoculars that can peer decades into the future.
Ahead of Glasgow, there had been hopes of making momentous gains against the oldest and dirtiest of fossil fuels. But without agreement from China, India and the United States, coal won’t be banished to the slag heap of history any time soon.
Coal is responsible for more than one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. In China, the world’s largest emitter, it generates 60 per cent of the electricity. This fall’s global energy squeeze has led to a rush for coal, and another emissions surge.
A commitment signed last week in Glasgow by more than 40 national governments was dubbed the “coal to clean power transition.” But China and India, accounting for two-thirds of the world’s use of coal for electricity, aren’t among the signatories.