EU countries mull call for global coal power phaseout, end to fossil fuel subsidies - draft

by Reuters
Friday, 22 January 2021 14:00 GMT

FILE PHOTO: Steam rises from the cooling towers of the coal power plant of RWE, one of Europe's biggest electricity and gas companies in Niederaussem, Germany, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

Image Caption and Rights Information

The EU could call to forge "high-ambition" alliances with large economies to spur faster emissions cuts

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - European Union countries could call on Monday for a global phasing out of polluting coal power and an end to fossil fuel subsidies as the bloc makes climate change a central part of its foreign policy, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The statement, which EU ministers aim to finalise on Monday, would commit to an aggressive line on climate diplomacy - by discouraging other countries from investing in fossil fuels and forging "high-ambition" alliances with large economies to spur faster emissions cuts.

Countries including China, Japan and South Africa have pledged to eventually cut their net carbon emissions to zero - a commitment U.S. President Joe Biden also made in his election campaign.

But the EU is one of few major economies to translate its long-term climate goal into urgent action this decade. Globally, countries' current plans would not cut emissions fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change.

"The EU calls for a global phase-out of environmentally harmful fossil-fuel subsidies along a clear timeline," the draft document said. "Including a phasing out of unabated coal in energy production and – as a first step – an immediate end to all financing of new coal infrastructure."

"EU energy diplomacy will discourage all further investments into fossil fuel based energy infrastructure projects in third countries, unless they are fully consistent with an ambitious, clearly defined pathway towards climate neutrality," it said, referring to non-EU states.

The draft is subject to change before ministers adopt it.

EU countries agreed last month to cut emissions by at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030. As it seeks trillions of euros in investments to meet that goal, the bloc plans to leverage its economic and diplomatic weight to ensure other countries follow suit.

Future EU trade deals must match its climate ambition, the draft said.

Wendel Trio, director of NGO coalition Climate Action Network Europe, welcomed the plan but said the EU also needed a "complete phase out of fossil fuel subsidies" at home.

Of the 159 billion euros EU countries spent on energy subsidies in 2018, nearly a third went on fossil fuels. (Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Marine Strauss and Toby Chopra)