Coal-free cities: the health and economic case for a clean energy revolution

Climate change mitigation Electricity grid Low carbon cities Coal-fired power Energy industries Power resources

Coal is the world’s largest source of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and is responsible for 0.3°C of global heating to date. Phasing out coal-fired power plants is the single biggest step we can take to keep global heating below the 1.5°C threshold.

Accounting for two-thirds of global primary energy use, cities are at the forefront of the global energy transition. They are also significantly impacted by air pollution from coal. Of the current global coal fleet, 68% is located within 500 km of at least one C40 city, contributing to premature deaths and lifelong health conditions.

This report provides compelling evidence of the adverse impact of coal-fired electricity generation has on society and provides best practice examples of how C40 cities are taking both direct and indirect action to accelerate the shift away from coal.

Key findings:

  • Rapidly phasing out coal through bans, emissions regulations, shareholder action and other tools
  • Shifting demand from coal to clean energy, including by transitioning municipal energy procurement to sustainable energy, aggregating energy demand to broker better deals, and participating in energy regulation processes at other levels of government.
  • Reducing demand by boosting energy efficiency, reducing coal needs now and limiting the scale of investments required for the transition to clean energy.
  • Accelerating renewable energy generation by using city assets for clean energy projects, assessing local potential for renewables, incentivising renewables in private buildings, and exploring supportive municipal policies like local feed-in tariffs.
  • Ensuring a just transition, which includes engaging communities and stakeholders, investing in retraining, developing a plan to diversify industry, and converting old fossil fuel infrastructure to renewable energy.


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