Coal is both the largest source of electricity generation and the largest single source of CO2 emissions, creating a unique challenge in transitioning to low-carbon energy systems.

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Key findings

Key strategies to reduce emissions of existing coal-fired plants in the in the Announced Pledges Scenario, 2022-2050


Rapid scale up of clean electricity generation and infrastructure is essential for coal transitions in the power sector

A massive scale up of clean sources of power generation, accompanied by system‐wide improvements in energy efficiency, is key to reducing coal use for power and cutting emissions from existing assets. In the APS, global output from existing unabated coal‐fired plants is reduced by nearly 2 500 terawatt‐hours from 2021 to 2030 to get on track for national climate pledges, and 75% of this is replaced by solar PV and wind.

Many of the transitions away from coal observed so far have been driven by rapid uptake of solar PV and wind; however, these have typically been in countries where electricity demand was flat or in decline. A key challenge ahead is to achieve such transitions in fast‐growing emerging market and developing economies such as India and Indonesia, where demand for electricity causes generation from coal to increase until the early 2030s in the APS even with a speedy deployment of renewables.

Annual change in CO2 emissions and generation from unabated coal-fired power plants in the Net Zero Scenario, 2015-2030


Coal-fired electricity at an all-time high

Global coal-fired generation reached an all-time high in 2021, pushing CO2 emissions from coal power plants to record levels. Despite increased calls from governments and the private sector to phase down or transition away from coal, it accounted for over one-third of total electricity generation.

Given that no new coal plants have been fitted with carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), the only emission reductions are from efficiency gains. Some efficiency gains have been reported in China, though the increase is limited to around 0.2%. These trends are not on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, which calls for an annual average 9% reduction in unabated coal-fired generation between 2022 and 2030 and a complete phaseout by 2040.

Coal data explorer

Our work

The FBC TCP provides a framework for international collaboration on energy technology development and deployment of the fluidized bed conversion of solid fuels applied to clean energy. The main activity of the FBC TCP is technical exchange during meetings and workshops. Participants carry out research on operational issues in support of commercial fluidized bed conversion activities and share results. Fluidized bed conversion offers several advantages over pulverized fuel combustion, notably low emissions and the ability to burn a wide range of fuels including waste and biomass.

Founded in 1991, the remit of the GHG TCP is to evaluate options and assess the progress of carbon capture and storage, and other technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions derived from the use of fossil fuels, biomass and waste. The aim of the TCP is to help accelerate energy technology innovation by ensuring that stakeholders from both the public and private sectors share knowledge, work collaboratively and, where appropriate, pool resources to deliver integrated and cost-effective solutions.

The ICSC TCP provides independent information and analysis on all coal related trends and all aspects of coal production, transport, processing and utilisation within the rationale for balancing security of supply, affordability and environmental issues. Topics include efficiency improvements, lowering greenhouse gas and non-greenhouse gas emissions, reducing water stress, ensuring poverty alleviation through universal access to robust and reliable electricity, together with other sustainability and socially led goals.