Britain wants to broker a global agreement to stop the cross-border financing of coal projects when it hosts a major climate conference in November, a senior government minister said on Friday.
Alok Sharma, the minister in charge of preparations for the United Nations COP26 summit in Glasgow, said significant action was needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a threshold scientists say can prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
“If we are serious about 1.5 degrees, Glasgow must be the COP that consigns coal to history,” Sharma said in extracts of a speech he is due to deliver later on Friday.
“We are working directly with governments, and through international organisations, to end international coal financing. This is a personal priority,” he added.
Britain currently generates 2% of its electricity from coal, down from 40% in 2020, and it plans to completely phase out coal as a power source by 2024.
But environmental campaigners say British financial institutions play a major role in funding coal mines and coal-fired power stations elsewhere in the world.
Coal remains widely used for electricity and other industrial purposes in China, where President Xi Jinping has said he expects carbon emissions to continue rising until 2030.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has committed to lower the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to 78% of their level in 1990 by 2035, and to cut net emissions to zero by 2050.
And last month the United States, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China, said it would seek to halve its emissions from their 2005 level by 2030.