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How Far Are We From Phasing Out Coal?



How Far Are We from Phasing Out Coal?

This was originally published on April 28, 2022, on Elements.

At the COP26 conference last year, 40 nations agreed to phase coal out of their energy mixes.

Despite this, in 2021, coal-fired electricity generation reached all-time highs globally, showing that eliminating coal from the energy mix will not be a simple task.

This infographic shows the aggressive phase-out of coal power that would be required in order to reach net zero goals by 2050, based on an analysis by Ember that uses data provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Low-Cost Comes at a High Environmental Cost

Coal-powered electricity generation rose by 9.0% in 2021 to 10,042 Terawatt-hours (TWh), marking the biggest percentage rise since 1985.

The main reason is cost. Coal is the world’s most affordable energy fuel. Unfortunately, low-cost energy comes at a high cost for the environment, with coal being the largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions.

China has the highest coal consumption, making up 54% of the world’s coal electricity generation. The country’s consumption jumped 12% between 2010 and 2020, despite coal making up a lower percentage of the country’s energy mix in relative terms.

Top Consumers2020 Consumption (Exajoules) Share of global consumption
China 🇨🇳82.354.3%
India 🇮🇳17.511.6%
United States 🇺🇸9.26.1%
Japan 🇯🇵4.63.0%
South Africa 🇿🇦3.52.3%
Russia 🇷🇺3.32.2%
Indonesia 🇮🇩3.32.2%
South Korea 🇰🇷3.02.0%
Vietnam 🇻🇳2.11.4%
Germany 🇩🇪1.81.2%

Together, China and India account for 66% of global coal consumption and emit about 35% of the world’s greenhouse gasses (GHG). If you add the United States to the mix, this goes up to 72% of coal consumption and 49% of GHGs.

How Urgent is to Phase Out Coal?

According to the United Nations, emissions from current and planned fossil energy infrastructure are already more than twice the amount that would push the planet over 1.5°C of global heating, a level that scientists say could bring more intense heat, fire, storms, flooding, and drought than the present 1.2°C.

Apart from being the largest source of CO2 emissions, coal combustion is also a major threat to public health because of the fine particulate matter released into the air.

As just one example of this impact, a recent study from Harvard University estimates air pollution from fossil fuel combustion is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths globally.

The Move to Renewables

Coal-powered electricity generation must fall by 13% every year until 2030 to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals of keeping global heating to only 1.5 degrees.

To reach the mark, countries would need to speed up the shift from their current carbon-intensive pathways to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

How fast the transition away from coal will be achieved depends on a complicated balance between carbon emissions cuts and maintaining economic growth, the latter of which is still largely dependent on coal power.

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Visualized: Emission Reduction Targets by Country in 2024

This infographic shows the greenhouse gas emissions targets of all countries and their target years with data from Net Zero Tracker.



The preview image for an infographic showing the greenhouse gas emissions for all countries around the globe and their target years compared to 2021 with data from Net Zero Tracker.

Visualized: Emission Reduction Targets by Country in 2024

Since 2021, another 40 countries have established climate goals for 2030. However, the path to net zero remains uneven.

With average national warming already 1.81°C above pre-industrial levels, the international pressure for countries to cut emissions faster and deeper is mounting. So where do countries stand today on their targets?

We’ve partnered with the National Public Utilities Council to answer just this question, using the latest national emission target data from Net Zero Tracker.

A Spotlight on Major Players

The largest countries and richest economies typically emit the most greenhouse gases and thus have the most crucial targets.

CountryEnd TargetEnd Target YearNew Commitment
BeninNet zero2000Achieved
BhutanCarbon negative2030Achieved
ComorosNet zero2050Achieved
GabonCarbon neutral(ity)2050Achieved
GuyanaNet zero2050Achieved
SurinameNet zero2050Achieved
AlbaniaEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
AlgeriaReduction v. business-as-usual (BAU)2030Not legally binding
BarbadosCarbon neutral(ity)2030Not legally binding
BelarusEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
BotswanaEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
BruneiEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
CameroonReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
CongoReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
Côte d'IvoireReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
CubaOther2030Not legally binding
Czech RepublicEmissions reduction target2030In law
DominicaCarbon neutral(ity)2030Not legally binding
EgyptOther2030Not legally binding
El SalvadorAbsolute emissions target2030Not legally binding
EswatiniReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
GuatemalaEmissions reduction target2030In law
HondurasReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
IranOther2030In law
IraqOther2030Not legally binding
JamaicaEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
JordanReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
KenyaReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
LiechtensteinEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
MacedoniaEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
MaldivesNet zero2030In law
MauritaniaCarbon neutral(ity)2030Not legally binding
MexicoReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
MoldovaEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
MongoliaEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
MontenegroEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
MoroccoReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
North KoreaReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
ParaguayReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
PhilippinesReduction v. BAU2030Not legally binding
PolandEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
QatarEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
San MarinoEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
SerbiaEmissions reduction target2030In law
TajikistanEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
TurkmenistanEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
UzbekistanEmissions intensity target2030Not legally binding
VenezuelaEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
ZimbabweEmissions reduction target2030Not legally binding
BermudaOther2035Not legally binding
FinlandClimate neutral2035In law
Antigua and BarbudaNet zero2040Not legally binding
AustriaClimate neutral2040In law
Cayman IslandsOther2040Not legally binding
IcelandCarbon neutral(ity)2040In law
MyanmarNet zero2040Not legally binding
PalestineOther2040Not legally binding
DenmarkNet zero2045Not legally binding
GermanyClimate neutral2045In law
NepalNet zero2045Not legally binding
SwedenNet zero2045In law
AfghanistanNet zero2050Not legally binding
AndorraCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
AngolaNet zero2050Not legally binding
ArgentinaNet zero2050Not legally binding
ArmeniaClimate neutral2050Not legally binding
AustraliaNet zero2050In law
AzerbaijanEmissions reduction target2050Not legally binding
BangladeshNet zero2050Not legally binding
BelgiumCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
BelizeNet zero2050Not legally binding
Bosnia and HerzegovinaEmissions reduction target2050Not legally binding
BrazilCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
BulgariaNet zero2050Not legally binding
Burkina FasoNet zero2050Not legally binding
BurundiNet zero2050Not legally binding
CambodiaCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
CanadaNet zero2050In law
Cape VerdeNet zero2050Not legally binding
Central African RepublicNet zero2050Not legally binding
ChadNet zero2050Not legally binding
ChileCarbon neutral(ity)2050In law
ColombiaCarbon neutral(ity)2050In law
Cook IslandsCarbon neutral2050Not legally binding
Costa RicaNet zero2050Not legally binding
CroatiaClimate neutral2050In law
CyprusClimate neutral2050In law
Democratic Republic of the CongoNet zero2050Not legally binding
DjiboutiNet zero2050Not legally binding
Dominican RepublicNet zero2050Not legally binding
EcuadorZero carbon2050Not legally binding
Equatorial GuineaEmissions reduction target2050Not legally binding
EritreaNet zero2050Not legally binding
EstoniaZero emissions2050Not legally binding
EthiopiaNet zero2050Not legally binding
European UnionClimate neutral2050In law
FijiNet zero2050In law
FranceNet zero2050In law
GeorgiaClimate neutral2050Not legally binding
GreeceClimate neutral2050In law
GrenadaNet zero2050Not legally binding
GuineaNet zero2050Not legally binding
Guinea-BissauNet zero2050Not legally binding
HaitiNet zero2050Not legally binding
HungaryNet zero2050In law
IrelandClimate neutral2050In law
IsraelNet zero2050Not legally binding
ItalyCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
JapanCarbon neutral(ity)2050In law
KiribatiNet zero2050Not legally binding
KyrgyzstanCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
LaosNet zero2050Not legally binding
LatviaCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
LebanonNet zero2050Not legally binding
LesothoNet zero2050Not legally binding
LiberiaNet zero2050Not legally binding
LithuaniaNet zero2050Not legally binding
LuxembourgNet zero2050In law
MadagascarNet zero2050Not legally binding
MalawiNet zero2050Not legally binding
MalaysiaNet zero2050Not legally binding
MaliNet zero2050Not legally binding
MaltaClimate neutral2050Not legally binding
Marshall IslandsNet zero2050Not legally binding
MauritiusNet zero2050Not legally binding
MicronesiaNet zero2050Not legally binding
MonacoCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
MozambiqueNet zero2050Not legally binding
NamibiaNet zero2050Not legally binding
NauruNet zero2050Not legally binding
NetherlandsEmissions reduction target2050In law
New ZealandNet zero2050In law
NicaraguaNet zero2050Not legally binding
NigerNet zero2050Not legally binding
NiueNet zero2050Not legally binding
NorwayEmissions reduction target2050In law
OmanNet zero2050Not legally binding
PakistanNet zero2050Not legally binding
PalauNet zero2050Not legally binding
PanamaNet zero2050Not legally binding
Papua New GuineaNet zero2050Not legally binding
PeruNet zero2050Not legally binding
PortugalCarbon neutral(ity)2050In law
RomaniaNet zero2050Not legally binding
RwandaNet zero2050Not legally binding
Saint Kitts and NevisNet zero2050Not legally binding
Saint LuciaNet zero2050Not legally binding
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesNet zero2050Not legally binding
SamoaNet zero2050Not legally binding
Sao Tome and PrincipeNet zero2050Not legally binding
SenegalNet zero2050Not legally binding
SeychellesNet zero2050Not legally binding
Sierra LeoneNet zero2050Not legally binding
SingaporeNet zero2050Not legally binding
SlovakiaNet zero2050In law
SloveniaNet zero2050Not legally binding
Solomon IslandsNet zero2050Not legally binding
SomaliaNet zero2050Not legally binding
South AfricaNet zero2050Not legally binding
South KoreaNet zero2050In law
South SudanNet zero2050Not legally binding
SpainClimate neutral2050In law
Sri LankaCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
SudanNet zero2050Not legally binding
SwitzerlandNet zero2050In law
TanzaniaNet zero2050Not legally binding
The BahamasNet zero2050Not legally binding
The GambiaNet zero2050Not legally binding
Timor-LesteNet zero2050Not legally binding
TogoNet zero2050Not legally binding
TongaNet zero2050Not legally binding
Trinidad and TobagoNet zero2050Not legally binding
TunisiaCarbon neutral(ity)2050Not legally binding
TuvaluNet zero2050Not legally binding
UgandaNet zero2050Not legally binding
United Arab EmiratesNet zero2050Not legally binding
United KingdomNet zero2050In law
United States of AmericaNet zero2050In law
UruguayNet zero2050Not legally binding
VanuatuNet zero2050Not legally binding
Vatican CityCarbon Neutral2050Not legally binding
VietnamNet zero2050Not legally binding
YemenNet zero2050Not legally binding
ZambiaNet zero2050Not legally binding
BahrainNet zero2060Not legally binding
ChinaCarbon neutral(ity)2060Not legally binding
IndonesiaNet zero2060Not legally binding
KazakhstanCarbon neutral(ity)2060Not legally binding
KuwaitCarbon neutral(ity)2060Not legally binding
Russian FederationCarbon neutral(ity)2060Not legally binding
Saudi ArabiaNet zero2060Not legally binding
TürkiyeNet zero2053Not legally binding
UkraineCarbon neutral(ity)2060Not legally binding
GhanaNet zero2070Not legally binding
IndiaNet zero2070Not legally binding
NigeriaNet zero2070In law
ThailandNet zero2065Not legally binding
BoliviaNo targetN/ANone
LibyaNo targetN/ANone
Syrian Arab RepublicNo targetN/ANone

The United States has an interim goal of a 50-52% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, with a net zero target set for 2050.

Their primary economic rival, China, is focused on peaking its CO₂ emissions by 2030 instead of reducing them. Their net zero target, on the other hand, is currently set for 2060.

The European Union requires all 27 member states to reduce emissions 55% by 2030, with a net-zero goal for 2050.

Australia, which is among the top emitters per capita because of its fossil fuel usage, aims to reduce emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030, while their net zero target is set for 2050.

Ambitious Climate Leaders and Laggards

While Comoros, Bhutan, Gabon, Suriname, and Guyana claim to have already achieved net zero, several major countries lack commitment.

Russia, one of the world’s largest polluters, has a net zero target set for 2060. Several other top-emitting countries, such as India and Indonesia, have net zero targets that also do not meet the Paris Climate Accord timeline of net zero by 2050. Their net-zero commitments are targeted at 2070 and 2060, respectively.

Iran is the only one of the top 10 largest emitting nations without a net zero target. However, it has an interim target of reducing emissions 3.45% by 2030.

Finland leads all countries with a legally binding net zero target set for the ambitious year 2035. Germany, a more populous nation, is also topping the Paris Climate Accord timeline, enshrining its net zero target into law for 2045.

The global race to net zero is ongoing, with countries at various stages of commitment. While significant progress has been made, many of the world’s largest emitters have yet to commit to net zero emission goals aligned with the Paris Climate Accord.

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Visualized: The Price of Carbon Around the World in 2024

This bar chart shows the varying prices of carbon across different economies around the globe, using data from the World Bank.



The preview image for a bar chart showing which economies have the highest and lowest carbon taxes, with data from the World Bank.

Visualized: The Price of Carbon Around the World

Only 1% of global emissions are priced high enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature target in 2024.

This chart, created in partnership with the National Public Utilities Council, shows carbon prices around the world using data from the World Bank.

Let’s start by looking at what carbon pricing is and how it works.

What Is Carbon Pricing?

Carbon pricing is an environmental strategy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by assigning a monetary cost to carbon emissions. 

The most common types of carbon pricing are emissions trading systems (ETS) and carbon taxes. The former sets an overall emission limit and allocates permits for trading, whereas the latter imposes a fee on emissions to increase their cost and incentivize reductions.

According to the World Bank, Finland and Poland were the first countries to implement a federal carbon price in 1990. The most recent countries, on the other hand, were Australia, Hungary, and Indonesia, implementing carbon pricing in 2023.

Carbon Prices, By Region

In 2017, the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition suggested that carbon prices should range from $50–100/tCO2 by 2030 to meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s temperature goal.

Fast forward to 2024, the global average carbon price is $32/tCO2—$18 short of the minimum that is needed in six years.

Carbon pricing varies significantly across different regions. Europe and Central Asia have the highest number of pricing initiatives out of any other world region, with an average price of $50.

In the U.S. and Canada, the average price is slightly lower at $48 per ton, with 16 initiatives in place. North America’s approach is characterized by both federal and state/provincial systems, including notable schemes like Canada’s federal carbon pricing and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the United States.

RegionAverage Carbon PriceNumber of Initiatives
Europe & Central Asia$5026
U.S. & Canada$4816
Latin America & Caribbean$2411
East Asia & Pacific$1118

The European Union’s ETS system was introduced in 2005. The initiative led to a 16% decrease in covered emissions between 2022 and 2023 and generated $47 billion. Several EU member countries have also implemented their own carbon pricing mechanisms to address sectors outside the EU ETS’s scope or to generate domestic revenue.

While there are notable efforts made in Europe, Central Asia, and North America, the highest carbon tax in the world belongs to Uruguay at $167/tCO2.  According to the World Bank, Uruguay’s GDP per capita is $20,795, which is significantly lower than other countries with Paris Agreement-aligned carbon pricing.

Despite these differing initiatives, the global average carbon price still lags behind the levels needed to achieve the Paris Agreement targets, emphasizing the critical need for more robust and widespread adoption of carbon pricing to drive meaningful climate action.

Learn how the National Public Utilities Council is working toward the future of sustainable electricity.

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