Coal

Coal power is the single biggest contributor to climate change. Yet it is still the world’s main source of electricity, generating 36% of global electricity in 2021.

Share of coal in global electricity (%)

Overview

Coal power not declining fast enough for 1.5C

Ember’s Global Electricity Review revealed that rebounding from a 4% fall in 2020, coal generation reached an all-time high in 2021, rising by 9.0% to 10,042 TWh (2% above the previous record set in 2018).

Coal is collapsing in most OECD countries, with more and more countries going entirely coal-free, despite some small backwards steps in the EU due to the gas crisis. Coal is still on the rise in some Asian countries; the clean electricity boom still isn’t keeping up with fast-rising electricity demand.

The top four countries – China, India, the United States and Japan – were responsible for over three-quarters of the world’s coal-fired electricity in 2021 (78%, 7,829 TWh).

For the IEA’s 1.5 degree pathway, unabated coal power generation must fall by 73% globally from 2021 to 2030. OECD countries must stop burning coal for power by 2030 and the rest of the world by 2040. The latest IPCC models also back up that timeline.

Last updated: Nov 2022

The world's biggest coal generators

Key countries:

Ember position

Coal power is incompatible with a safe climate

Coal power is the single biggest threat to a safe climate. But the good news is that we have cleaner and cheaper alternatives like wind and solar that can rapidly replace it this decade. Coal is already the most expensive form of electricity generation and so we do not advocate for the use of coal with CCS or other abatement measures – to tackle climate change, the world has to get rid of coal for good.

Our analysis shows how countries like China and India can accelerate their transition away from coal, targeting the closure of the least efficient ‘sub-critical’ plants first. We are helping to share lessons from the rapidly accelerating coal phase-out in Europe, as well as shining a spotlight on laggards like Germany and Poland

The IEA Net Zero Roadmap shows that for a safe climate, coal power must end in advanced economies by 2030 and worldwide by 2040. We won’t stop until that’s achieved.

Urgent decline required this decade


IPCC scenarios show that global unabated coal power needs to fall by 87% in the next 9 years, from 10,059 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2021 to 1,153 TWh in 2030.

Data

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