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Will Anyone Ban Coal Completely?

Dec 09 2016 Comments 0

With increased awareness about the damaging effects of fossil fuels on our environment – and in particular, coal-fired power plants – coal has been gradually phased out of the national agendas of most countries worldwide. Of course, it’s still in widespread use across the globe, but in far less percentages and quantities than it was 10 years ago, for example.

While a handful of countries have already made the transition to a coal-free existence and many more pledge to do so in the coming years, no one has placed an outright ban on the practice… until now. Late last month, Finland became the first nation in the world to announce that producing energy from coal will be outlawed by 2030.

An old-fashioned practice on the wane

Greater awareness about the emissions of coal-fired power plants and the havoc they can wreak on the environment has led to many countries around the world phasing the fossil fuel out of their energy generation system.

Among others, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Scotland have been free from the polluting method of power production for some time. Of course, all of these nations share certain characteristics in common: they’re small with low populations and often enjoy favourable natural resources which can provide a clean alternative to fossil fuels.

On the other hand, bigger nations are slowly but surely beginning to follow suit. The UK and Austria both signalled their intention to cut out coal by 2025, while France is aiming to achieve the feat even more quickly with a date of 2023 on the cards. At present, only 3% of French electricity is generated by coal combustion, so dropping it altogether shouldn’t prove to be an unattainable task, even if the timescale is a little tight.

Meanwhile, Canada have announced they will shut down all coal plants by 2030 and Germany aims to have 50% of its existing coal plants offline by the same date, with the remaining centres scheduled for closure before 2050. Clearly, coal is on the decline.

A different approach

Finland, however, has adopted a different approach. Rather than setting targets which may or may not be met (see the British performance with regards to its air quality targets over the last six years), the government have promised to outlaw the practice of coal-fired power altogether by 2030.

By introducing legislation to ban coal, Finland have thrown down the gauntlet to other countries and challenged themselves to thrive in the renewable energy economy. Currently, the small Nordic nation gets about 12% of its power from coal, most of which is imported. With 79% of its energy needs met by renewable and nuclear energy means, Finland is already well on the way to a completely renewable energy economy and the ban on coal is another significant nail in the coffin of fossil fuels.

Speaking about the proposed ban, Peter Lund (a researcher at Aalto University) was effusive in his praise: “These moves are important forerunners to enforce the recent positive signals in coal use. The more countries that join the coal phase-out club, the better for the climate as this would force the others to follow.”

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