Several major countries pledge to phase out coal use

In the fight to curb climate change, several major coal-using nations announced steps on Thursday to wean themselves at times slowly off the heavily polluting fossil fuel.

The pledges to phase out coal came on top of other promises made at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, that the head of an international energy organisation said trimmed a few tenths of a degree from projections of future warming.

Optimism also abounded in relation to the promises on coal, which has the dirtiest carbon footprint of the major fuels and is a significant source of planet-warming emissions.

“Today, I think we can say that the end of coal is in sight,” said Alok Sharma, who is chairing the conference of nearly 200 nations, known as COP26.

But that vision is obscured in smoke, critics say, because several major economies still have not set a date for ending their dependence on the fuel, including the United States, China, India and Japan.

Outside the venue where negotiators were meeting on Thursday, protesters clad as animated characters blasted Japan’s continued coal use.

What nations have promised varies. Some have pledged to quit coal completely at some future time, while others say they’ll stop building new plants, and even more, including China, are talking about just stopping financing of new coal plants abroad.

The British government said pledges of new or earlier deadlines for ending coal use came from countries including Poland, Ukraine, Vietnam and Chile.

Meanwhile, the United States, Canada, Denmark and several other nations signed a pledge to prioritise funding clean energy over fossil fuel projects abroad.

While not completely ruling out financial support for coal-fired power plants, the countries said they would refrain from any new direct public support” for coal except in limited circumstances.

That move was seen as a significant step by environmental campaigners, who said that it could push international lenders to stop providing loans for new fossil fuel projects.

Denmark announced a $15.6 million contribution for the coal phase-out, including money for efforts to purchase and decommission coal power plants and invest in new energy sources.

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