UN chief asks for transition from coal to renewable energy
Published: Mar 03, 2021 09:11 AM
Supervisors monitor installation process of solar panels on a factory building in Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh on Jan. 3, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

Supervisors monitor installation process of solar panels on a factory building in Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh on Jan. 3, 2021.(Photo: Xinhua)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday asked countries and companies to give up coal for energy and move toward renewable sources.

In a video message to a summit of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, Guterres called on all governments, private companies and local authorities to take three steps: cancel coal projects in the pipeline, end international financing of coal plants, and jump-start a global effort to finally organize a just transition.

He urged all countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to commit to phasing out coal by 2030, and for non-OECD countries to do so by 2040.

Main emitters and coal users should announce their phase-out plans well before the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. The Group of Seven industrialized countries should take the lead and commit to this phase-out at their summit in June 2021 at the latest, he said.

Guterres asked the leaders of main emitting economies to announce the end of their international financial support to coal at the earliest opportunity this year.

"I look forward to seeing much more support to the developing countries that are embracing the transition to renewable energy to deliver universal energy access to their citizens. I also ask all multilateral and public banks -- as well as investors in commercial banks or pension funds -- to shift their investments now in the new economy of renewable energy."

He called for the initiation of a global effort to organize a just transition, going coal plant by coal plant if necessary.

Most studies estimate that despite inevitable job losses, the transition from coal to renewable energy will result in the net creation of millions of jobs by 2030. But the impact on regional and local levels will be varied, he said.

"We have a collective and urgent responsibility to address the serious challenges that come with the speed and scale of the transition. The needs of coal communities must be recognized, and concrete solutions must be provided at a very local level. That requires engagement -- from governments to power companies, from labor unions to investors, both private and public."

He called on all countries to embrace the International Labor Organization's guidelines for a just transition and adopt them as a minimum standard to ensure progress on decent work for all.

The United Nations will fully support this just transition and efforts to ensure that thriving and prosperous renewable energy communities emerge from this transformation, he said.

"We can have renewable energy and blue skies. We can have decent, healthy, and reliable jobs. We can have dependable, renewable power systems that ensure everyone has access to energy. We can power past coal and have economies that thrive on innovative businesses aligned to what the world is demanding -- sustainable development and prosperity for people and planet. We can make all of this happen, together," he said.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance is a coalition of national and sub-national governments, businesses and organizations working to advance the transition from coal power generation to clean energy. The virtual summit was co-hosted by Britain and Canada.