Why Coal

Our global addiction to coal is killing us and irreparably damaging our planet.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people die due to coal pollution. Millions more around the world suffer from asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other illnesses which lead to hospitalizations and lost workdays.

Coal is the single biggest contributor to global climate change. If plans to build more than 1000 coal power stations are realised, the greenhouse gases released from these plants will put us on track for a five degree celsius rise in global temperatures, a fate likened to planetary collapse.

A burgeoning global movement is pressuring governments and institutions to take action to end our dependence on coal. In the European Union, 109 proposed coal-fired power plants have been defeated. Due to China’s air pollution crisis, mainly caused by massive coal burning, 10 of China’s 34 provinces have pledged to peak and decline their coal consumption by 2017 and have banned the construction of new coal-fired power plants. China’s coal consumption dropped in 2014 for the first time ever, and also declined in 2015.

US groups have defeated 179 new coal-fired power plants, and more than 200 existing plants are slated for retirement. Coal-burning in the US actually peaked in 2007 and has dropped by an astonishing 21%. President Obama’s new rules for limiting carbon pollution have effectively ruled out any new coal plant construction in the United States, and will result in many additional closures.

International financial institutions such as the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank have adopted policies restricting or eliminating support for coal plants. The US and several European countries have also enacted bans on financing coal overseas except in limited circumstances.

While the movement to stop coal is growing, the coal industry is relentless in its push to mine and burn more coal. We must join together to end coal.

Read our EndCoal Factsheets for overviews of the impacts of coal on health, climate change, water and the environment.