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COP26: Sharma warns coal must 'stay in the past' as he urges countries to 'abandon' the fossil fuel

Image: EDF.

Image: EDF.

COP26 president-designate and ex-energy secretary Alok Sharma has called for an end of international coal finance in a speech marking six months till the international climate conference.

Speaking in Glasgow – where the conference is set to take place this November – against the backdrop of ScottishPower’s Whitelee wind farm, Sharma described this ask as a personal priority, adding that “we are urging countries to abandon coal power”.

“The coal business is, as the UN Secretary General has said, going up in smoke,” he continued.

Praising the UK as a “beacon of green growth”, Sharma made reference to the reductions in coal use across the country in recent years as well as the target to phase it out completely by 2024.

With the most recent coal closure announcement - EDF's West Burton A which is to shutter in September 2022 - the only coal-fired power station to be left operating post-2022 is Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar.

Generation at Drax's remaining two coal units is set to stop this year, and SSE's Fiddlers Ferry and RWE's Aberthaw B both closed in March 2020.

“The days of coal providing the cheapest form of power are in the past. And in the past they must remain,” Sharma said.

He also praised the UK for having developed the largest offshore wind sector in the world in less than a 20 year period, as well as the country’s commitment to ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

In response to today's speech, Merlin Hyman, chief executive of trade organisation Regen, said that while the UK has shown leadership in its carbon reduction targets, "we need to show we can deliver on those goals".

"In particular, the UK will be in a much better place to ask developing countries to end coal if we show we are serious about weaning ourselves off gas," he added, suggesting the government should set clear end dates for the use of fossil fuel heating and work with local government to "put in place the incentives and support to enable householders to upgrade their homes".

One measure introduced by the government to support the decarbonisation of domestic heating was the Green Homes Grant, which offered up vouchers to help with the cost of purchasing and installing technologies such as heat pumps. However, after a string of administrative troubles, this voucher segment of the scheme shuttered early in March 2021, with less than a sixth of the initial projected 600,000 homes to receive vouchers.

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