The phasing out of coal is too slow - the world is moving towards 3 degrees of warming

The use of coal power is not decreasing fast enough. The Paris Agreement's goal of a maximum of 2 degrees of warming looks like it will be greatly exceeded and the world is moving towards a temperature increase of 2.5–3 degrees. This is shown by researchers from Chalmers and Lund universities in a new study from the research programme Mistra Electrification.

Chimney with a dark smoke stack

“More and more countries are promising that they will phase out coal from their energy systems, which is positive. But unfortunately, their commitments are not strong enough. If we are to have a realistic chance of meeting the 2-degree target, the phasing out of coal needs to happen faster, and countries that rely on other fossil fuels need to increase their transition rate”, says Aleh Cherp, professor at the International Environmental Institute at Lund University.

The phasing out of coal is a necessity to keep the world's temperature increase below 2 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels. In a study by Mistra Electrification, a group of researchers has analyzed 72 countries' pledged commitments to phase out their coal use by 2022-2050.

In the best case scenarios, the researchers show that it is possible that the temperature increase will stay below 2 degrees. But that assumes, among other things, that both China and India begin phasing out their coal use within five years. Furthermore, their phase-out needs to be as rapid as it has been in the UK and faster than Germany has promised.

The research group has also developed scenarios that they consider to be the most realistic. These scenarios indicate that Earth is moving towards a global warming of 2.5-3 degrees.

“The countries' commitments are not sufficient, not even among the most ambitious countries. In addition, Russia's invasion of Ukraine risks jeopardizing several of the countries' commitments”, says Jessica Jewell, Associate professor at Physical Resource Theory, Chalmers University of Technology.

The study shows that the 72 countries' commitments to phase out coal power are similar to each other and in line with historical data for how quickly coal power was phased out in the past.

About the study

The study "Phasing out coal for 2 °C target requires worldwide replication of most ambitious national plans despite security and fairness concerns" is published on here.

About Mistra Electrification

The Mistra Electrification research program aims to accelerate the transition to a sustainable and efficient energy system. The program will produce knowledge, with a focus on electrification and sector coupling, to enable a fair transition. The main financier is the research foundation Mistra. The program is hosted by the research company Energiforsk, which leads the program together with Chalmers University of Technology. Read more at Mistra Electrification's website

Chimney Photo: "Cloud Maker", Ken Day, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.


Jessica Jewell
  • Associate Professor, Physical Resource Theory, Space, Earth and Environment