Coal 2021: How Black Carbon Still Runs the World

Michelle Heath
How Black Carbon Still Runs the World

At COP26, 190 countries agreed to phase down coal power. 65 countries committed to coal phase out and all major coal financing countries committed to end international coal finance by the end of 2021.

Globally, 159.6 exajoules of coal was produced in 2020 and 151.4 exajoules consumed. 

Though the Glasgow Climate Pact suggests that if commitments made in November of 2021 are kept a 1.5o C temperature rise may be achievable, various economic conditions continue to result in the growth of coal use.  For instance, emissions rose in the United States in 2021, with a comeback in coal-fired power plants experienced due to high natural gas prices.

Emissions from Coal

One quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) is produced by the power sector with coal-fired plants being the largest contributors. 

Three countries in the world – China, India, and the United States – though they account for only 40% of the global population, they are the largest consumers of coal accounting for 72% of coal consumption globally and half of all emissions.

At COP26 in Glasgow, it was determined to keep global warming below 2 degrees, as per the Paris Agreement, will require that no new coal power plants be built with existing coal fleets to be retired and clean power be scaled up.