Phasing out Coal

Coal is the most damaging form of energy for climate change and human health. Europe must be coal free by 2030.

Europe has a coal problem. Even as clean energy sources grow, many countries are still reliant on generating power from coal. It has huge impacts – on climate change and on health.

Our research shows that in 2017, coal produced 15% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and 38% of the EU ETS CO2 emissions. In 2015, the latest year for which health figures are available, coal was responsible for at least 19,500 premature deaths across Europe.

Sandbag specialises in analysing these impacts and advocating for the phase-out of coal in Europe by 2030.

Our research shows:

  • Phasing out coal is the simplest and quickest way to achieve substantial reductions in CO2 emissions;
  • Renewables growth is uneven across Europe and will need to accelerate to replace coal.
  • Coal power plants are still receiving generous subsidies – in the form of capacity payments, biomass co-firing revenues and generous ancillary and balancing revenues. Investment should be used to modernise the electricity system rather than keep coal on life-support

Sandbag works closely with the Europe Beyond Coal team. In 2017, we helped develop an authoritative up-to-date open-source database of all Europe’s coal power plants, a video showing how air pollution from coal travels throughout Europe and developed a data visualisation map of Europe’s coal plants.

Sandbag, working with partner organisations across Europe, produces landmark analysis to change the conversation on coal in Europe:

Europe’s Dark Cloud” (July 2016) describes how air pollution from coal power plants causes millions of cases of asthma and bronchitis.  It describes how air pollution from coal plants uniquely ascends into the sky from the tall chimneys, and rains down as mini-particles up to hundreds of kilometres away. This means that, even if you are walking in the mountains, you will always be breathing in pollution from the Dark Cloud of Europe’s coal plants.

Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud” (October 2016) describes how pollution limits for coal plants are so far away from what is possible, leading to health impacts 85% higher than they should be, and showing for every country what the benefits of tighter pollution limits would be.  What’s more, it shows over half of Europe’s coal fleet has exemptions from the new pollution limits which came in from January 2016, listing the derogations of every coal plant in Europe.

Every year we also publish a “European Power Sector review” tracking the electricity transition, with a strong eye on coal. The latest was published in January 2018, reviewing generation in 2017.

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