October 11, 2018
Issue 249  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The call to phase out coal by 2050 by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was met with defiance by Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, although the country’s opposition leader also refused to commit to a coal phase out. In the US, President Trump’s pro-coal rhetoric was undercut by the stark reality of the collapsing coal market—a tension also heightened by Trump traveling to Florida but refusing to talk about climate change during the approach of one of the strongest hurricanes yet to hit the US.

In Germany, 50,000 people marched in the Hambach Forest after an appeals court ordered a temporary halt to the clearance of the forest for lignite mining. Protesters occupied the German embassy in London and demanded Germany expedite its exit from coal.

Coal financing continued to retreat as the World Bank moved to close a loophole that lets its private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation, invest in coal-intensive businesses. Additionally, the World Bank confirmed it will not support Kosovo C, saying coal is no longer the least cost option compared to renewables.

Global emissions are on track to rise for the second year running as the International Energy Agency stresses the need to close more coal plants sooner, especially in Asia.

James Browning, CoalSwarm



Coal use must fall by two-thirds by 2030, and be nearly phased out by 2050

The IPCC’s new recommendations to drastically reduce the consumption of coal-fired power to keep warming to 1.5°C (2.7° Fahrenheit) is achievable but requires swift and bold action, according to a global plant-by-plant analysis by CoalSwarm and Greenpeace International.

World Bank’s private sector arm moves to close coal loopholes

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private arm of the World Bank, is taking steps to limit its funding of corporations with indirect coal interests, writes IFC Director Philippe Le Houérou in Devex.

Global carbon emissions grow for second year running

With data for the first nine months of 2018 showing a rise in carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency argues that coal plant closures are critical, especially in Asia, writes Adam Vaughan in The Guardian.


Hambach and the German coal phase out

50,000 protesters marched in the Hambach Forest after a German court ordered RWE to temporarily halt clearing the forest for lignite mining. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by the environmental group BUND, which argued that EU environmental rules protect Hambach. (Deutsche Welle) In London activists for Greenpeace occupied the German embassy as the IPCC’s report was released, and called on the country to accelerate its exit from coal. (The Independent) And more than 100 organisations signed a petition to Chancellor Angela Merkel demanding a moratorium on logging and a coal phase-out by 2030. (Greenpeace)

Top News

Kenyan court reinstates stop orders against Lamu coal plant: The High Court of Nairobi has restored all stop orders against Amu Power’s proposed 1,050 megawatt (MW) Lamu coal plant. The ruling was in response to a petition filed by the Katiba Institute and activist Okiya Omtata. Activists are also protesting the reported involvement of General Electric (GE) in the project, but lawyers for Amu denied that any contract with GE had been signed. (deCOALonize)

World Bank will not fund new coal plant in Kosovo: President of the World Bank (WB) Jim Yong Kim confirmed the bank will not support the proposed 500 MW Kosovo C plant, saying “we are required with our bylaws to go with the lowest cost option and renewables have now come below the cost of coal." The proposal was the last coal project in the bank’s project pipeline that is not subject to the institution’s 2013 moratorium on coal project finance. The move follows years of opposition to the project over both its environmental effects and high costs. (London South East, Prishtina Insight)

Two South Korean pension funds to boycott coal finance: Korea’s Teachers’ Pension and Government Employees Pension System announced they will not consider financing any new coal-fired power plants, becoming the first Korean financial institutions to boycott coal financing amid the global movement to tackle climate change and air pollution problems. Greenpeace ranks South Korea 5th among G20 countries for overseas coal investment, and has called on its top public financial institutions – KEXIM, K-SURE, and KDB Bank – to end their overseas coal investments. (Korea Herald, Greenpeace)

Australian government rejects call to phase out coal: Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack reacted to the IPCC report calling for a global coal phase-out with defiance, saying the country will “absolutely” exploit its coal reserves. Opposition leader Bill Shorten called for more renewable energy but would not commit to a coal phase-out either. (The Guardian)

Coal must go to save Great Barrier Reef: The call to nearly eliminate coal by 2050 represents a chance to save Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs, according to IPCC scientists. Coral reefs are particularly susceptible to climate change: at 1.5°C of warming about 70% to 90% of reefs are at risk of coral bleaching from ocean acidification, but this rises to more than 99% of global reefs at 2°C of warming. (ABC)

Dutch court orders greater cuts in CO2 emissions: A Dutch appeals court rejected a challenge to a national requirement that the country reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. Activists called for the immediate closure of the two oldest of the country’s five coal-fired plants, and the adoption of additional conservation measures such as car-free Sundays, lowering the speed limit on roads, and reducing central heating temperatures. (DutchNews)

Trump appoints coal bailout backer McNamee to FERC: US President Trump has nominated coal advocate Bernard McNamee to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). McNamee currently leads the Office of Policy at the Department of Energy, where he helped to roll out a proposed bail-out of the coal and nuclear industries that FERC unanimously rejected, even with two of its five members already being Trump appointees. (EcoWatch)

Despite Trump, coal’s future looks terrible in the US: Trump challenged the IPCC report but his rhetoric was undercut by stark market realities. Electricity produced from coal is at a 35-year low in the US, and 10% of all coal produced in the first half of 2018 was headed to power plants scheduled to shut down by 2032. The handful of lingering proposed plants in Kansas, Texas, Georgia and other states have been beset by delays, cancellations, and bankruptcy filings, while in Wyoming a “phantom” plant turned out to be nothing more than “a road, an aluminum shed, and a concrete boiler platform.” Also, more than 16 GW of coal-fired capacity in the US is set to retire by 2021. (DeSmogBlog, S&P Platts Global, New York Times)

"Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes."

said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group III, which looks at methods for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and enhancing atmospheric sinks.



Australia: The New South Wales government approved the Hunter Valley coal mine, which is backed by South Korea’s Bylong but opposed by 336 of 364 local residents.

India: Local residents exposed illegal coal mining and dumping of coal waste in the Rongrenggre Reserve Forest.

India: State power giant NTPC signed contracts worth Rs 2,900 crore to put pollution control equipment on 17 of its coal-fired units.

Mozambique: A plan to build a US$2.8 billion coal port-and-railroad project appears on the verge of collapse due to flat demand for coal on world markets.

Myanmar: Local residents and monks from 27 villages demonstrated against a proposed coal mining project in Laikha, which is set to take over 1,300 acres of paddy field land near a local water source.

Poland: Polish government will ban the lowest-quality coal used for home furnaces, but not until 2020.

US: Citing increasing local concern about air pollution, the Northern Indiana Public Service Commission announced that it will accelerate the closure of four of its five coal plants.

US: AEP may shutter its Conesville coal plant in Ohio by 2020, two years ahead of schedule.

Companies + Markets

Australian government promoted Adani investment to South Korea: The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) discussed investing in the controversial Adani mine with South Korean officials, according to documents obtained through a freedom of information request by the environmental group Market Forces. DFAT had previously stated that the purpose of talks with South Korea was to discuss environmental permitting, not financing. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Investigation of Spanish coal cartel: Spain’s Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC), the agency responsible for economic regulation, raided the offices of several companies as part of an investigation of possible anti-competitive collusion in the wholesale coal sector. The CNMC was acting on a tip from authorities in the country’s Basque Region. (El Pais)

Mitsubishi backs off coal funding: Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group is reviewing its lending policies for coal-fired power generation and stated that its lending would be guided by OECD standards, which encourage lending only to high-efficiency “ultra-supercritical” coal-fired power plants. The announcement came after Japan’s Marubeni, which has equity investments in six Australian coal mines and seven Asian power stations, said it would halve its coal-fired generation capacity by 2030 and double the percentage of renewables in its portfolio by 2023. (The Australian Financial Review)

Renewables will make German coal exit achievable, affordable: With Germany’s coal exit commission announcing that it will recommend a target of 65% for renewables by 2030 and closure of several coal plants by 2020, a report by think tank Agora Energiewende finds that the cost of phasing out coal will be more than offset by savings due to the falling cost of renewables. The commission’s final recommendations are due before the COP24 talks in Poland in December. (S&P Platts Global)

Peabody interested in Drummond’s Colombia coal mines: US-based Peabody is looking at acquiring Drummond’s 80% share in various coal assets in Colombia, including two open-pit mines in the Cesar Basin and deep-water coal transportation and handling facilities at Puerto Drummond. In September Peabody acquired Drummond’s metallurgical coal mine in Alabama in the US. Analysts are questioning how Peabody can afford the Colombian deal if the ongoing fire at its mine in North Goonyella, Australia, results in the mine being closed. Human rights groups have accused Drummond of financing paramilitary violence against unionists and local communities at its mines in Colombia. (S&P Platts Global, PAX)

US-based Westmoreland Coal files for bankruptcy: Westmoreland Coal of Colorado filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week as part of a restructuring agreement with an unnamed group of lenders. The company, which was incorporated in 1854 and owns coal mines and a coal plant in North Carolina, has a reported US$1.4 billion in debt. It is the fourth major US coal company to file for bankruptcy in the past three years, joining Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, and Alpha Natural Resources. (MSN, Sierra Club)


A Coal Phase-out Pathway for 1.5 C, CoalSwarm/Greenpeace, October 2018
This report shows how a rapid transition away from coal is technically and economically possible, but will require aggressive retirement of coal plants coupled with equally aggressive deployment of efficiency measures and low-carbon power sources.

Coal Plant Developers List, Urgewald, October 2018
Urgewald and 28 partner organizations have released this year’s 120 Top Coal Plant Developers list. The companies on this list are planning the largest and most aggressive expansion of new coal power plants and represent 68% of the global coal plant pipeline.