The Worldwide Coal Boom Is Going Bust

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cindy Carr, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3034 or [email protected]
Ted Nace, CoalSwarm, (415) 206-0906 or [email protected]

The Worldwide Coal Boom Is Going Bust: Sierra Club and CoalSwarm Report Details New Data from Global Coal Plant Tracker


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Sierra Club and CoalSwarm released their new report, Boom and Bust: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline, which details the findings of an extensive investigation into every proposed coal-fired power plant worldwide since 2010. The data in the report will be continuously updated on the Global Coal Plant Tracker website. The stark findings have revealed that the boom in coal-fired electricity — one of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels and culprit in nearly 800,000 premature deaths every year — is going bust.

Worldwide, for every new coal plant built, two have been shelved or cancelled since 2010. This rate is significantly higher in places like Europe, South Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and has reached a six-to-one cancellation rate in India since 2012. In China, coal use declined in 2014 while, at the same time, the economy grew by 7.3 percent. And, in the U.S., over 77,000 megawatts of coal energy have retired or are slated to retire.

“We’ve seen time and again that coal is a risky and expensive investment for anyone, especially developing countries that are on the frontlines of the global energy crisis,” said John Coequyt, Director of the Sierra Club’s International and Federal Climate Campaign. “The pollution wrought by this dirty fossil fuel is a major problem these countries face, and the data from this new report simply reinforces what we’ve been saying all along: they’re moving away from coal toward the clean energy solutions that are taking hold right now, increasingly powering the world in a reliable, cost-effective, and healthy way.”

“What’s striking is how quickly the business climate has turned against coal since 2012,” said Ted Nace, Executive Director of CoalSwarm. “Because these projects require large capital outlays, they’re vulnerable to rising perceptions of risk. If you look at the number of cancelled and shelved projects, especially in places like India that were planning for a huge increase in coal-fired generating capacity, it’s almost as though the music suddenly stopped playing and everybody headed for the doors.”

“Shifting new power generation investments from coal to clean energy will avoid tens of thousands of deaths from air pollution and eliminate the largest source of growth in global CO2 emissions,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Senior Global Campaigner for Coal and Air Pollution at Greenpeace. “Fortunately, as the Boom and Bust report shows, the shift is happening much faster than expected, first in the U.S. and EU, then in China, and now we are seeing the first signs of coal power investments cooling down elsewhere as well.”

While the end of the boom spells trouble for coal markets, the current trends must accelerate if we are to avoid catastrophic climate disruption. As the world turns its attention to the upcoming COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, countries must commit to ending subsidies and policies that favor coal, and instead focus on cutting edge clean energy solutions that not only create jobs and protect public health but also retire the outdated and polluting technology that stands between us and a meaningful global agreement.


Read the report here.

Read the Sierra Club’s blog here.


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit


About Greenpeace

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace is present in more than 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Pacific. For more information, visit


About CoalSwarm

CoalSwarm is a network of researchers seeking to develop collaborative informational resources on coal impacts and alternatives. Current projects include identifying and mapping proposed and existing coal projects worldwide, including plants, mines, and infrastructure. For more information, visit