The United Kingdom generated 100% of its power from sources other than coal last Friday. This day made history, the first time since 1882 that the UK had not relied on coal for electricity production for a continuous 24 hours. National Grid spokesman Sean Kemp told the New York Times that this marks “a kind of end of an era.”
Coal consumption has steadily declined in the UK, which has participated in the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol as a member of the EU. Since 2012, two-thirds of Britain’s coal-fired power generating capacity has been closed. In 2012, coal accounted for 40% of electricity production.In 2015, that statistic dropped to 23% and one year later, to 9%. The UK is aiming to phase out coal entirely by 2025. When it does, it will join nearby Belgium, Norway, and Switzerland, and Vermont and Idaho* across the pond, as coal-free power generators.
* We have to drop to state level jurisdictions in the United States, because the US overall still sources 30% of its electricity from coal.
During this morning’s Joint High Level Segment, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Cooper Pershing delivered the U.S. National Statement. Addressing the combined meeting of the COP22/CMP12/CMA1, Pershing said, “With the policies already in place, the United States is well-positioned to meet its Paris Agreement targets” and that through current market trends, “the transition to clean energy is inevitable.” These are reassuring words to those wondering if the U.S. can bridge the gap between its Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) and its policies.
Lord Nicholas Stern at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco
Lord Nicholas Stern echoed these sentiments today at a COP 22 Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment event presenting the institute’s latest COP study. Lord Stern, Grantham Institute Chair and member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, emphasized the importance of federal structure, stating, “The best way for Parties to implement NDCs is to create supporting policies regionally and locally through cities, states, and provinces.” Pledges are only as good as their implementation. Governments will need to continue to translate words into action through understanding, informed by research, science and policy. Policy is the bridge. Parties now need the courage to cross it.
France has announced that it might stop importing shale natural gas from the United States because it’s extracted using hydraulic fracturing. Fracking was banned in France in 2011. Two French utilities currently contract with Houston-based Cheniere Energy, which sells them liquified natural gas (LNG) comprised of 40% shale gas. Notably, this policy debate in France is taking place as the US seeks to step up its LNG exports to Europe.
The United Kingdom used no coal in the electricity that flowed from Britain’s National Grid between midnight and 4am on May 10. This is a first since the 19th century. A number of reasons contributed to this moment. A carbon tax has made coal unprofitable in the UK and led to increased use of renewables and gas. The UK has also signaled its intent to phase out coal by 2025. In addition to all the sound policy making, serendipity also played a role in the UK’s May 10 first: a series of power plant breakdowns occurred! For more details on this – and the bumps in transitioning to a clean grid, read here.