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UK pledges to end financing of coal plants

Energy secretary told delegates at climate talks UK will join US to help developing nations transition to low carbon economy

By Nilima Choudhury 

The UK secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey has pledged to end financing coal-fired power plants overseas except in “rare circumstances in which the poorest countries have no feasible alternative”.

The country joins the US where in June President Barack Obama announced his Climate Action Plan that included a commitment to mobilise clean energy investments to the developing world and help “accelerate their transition to a green, low carbon economy.”

The two governments will work together to secure the support of other countries and Multilateral Development Banks to adopt similar policies.

Speaking on the sidelines of UN climate talks in Warsaw Davey said financing coal plants was undermining global efforts to prevent climate change.

“It is completely illogical for countries like the UK and the US to be decarbonising our own energy sectors while paying for coal-fired power plants to be built in other countries,” he said.

“Like the US, the UK recognises that there will be exceptions. We need to take account of new technologies such as Carbon Capture Storage and the very poorest countries where there are no alternatives. But many developing countries will soon find solar and similar energy technologies will become cheaper not just cleaner”.

WWF welcomed this news saying that the UK support reflected a significant move of global finance away the dirtiest forms of fossil fuels, but said that the shift needed to accelerate to address the risk posed by dangerous climate change.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, said: “We’re encouraged that in this announcement made at COP19 in Warsaw, the UK government has recognised that coal is a feature of our past, rather than a presence in our future.”

Banking

Campaigners say the UK has far more to do to prove it is fully committed to divesting in coal.

The World Development Movement’s report ‘Banking while Borneo Burns’ released last month revealed that UK banks have lent more money for Indonesian coal than banks from any other country since 2009.

The World Development Movement’s head of campaigns and policy Hannah Griffiths said: “Until we can cure the private finance sector of its coal addiction, coal will carry on cooking the planet thanks to UK money.

“Ed Davey must not forget that the UK government should also act to stop UK private finance supporting coal – regulating the finance sector is our only hope of keeping the coal in the ground.”

Nussbaum said: “A growing international movement is now pressing for investment to be directed to sustainable sources of energy. This announcement reinforces the momentum away from a polluting fuel which threatens our shared climate, and sets us on the path to a clean and secure energy future.”

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