Coal Phase Out


Burning coal is one of the main drivers of climate change because coal is one of the most greenhouse gas intensive fuels (see for example here).

Despite this over 40% of world electricity is still generated from coal. Globally, coal causes over 12 Giga tons of CO2 per year and accounts for about 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014, 18% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions came from burning coal.

Coal’s overall human and ecological toll is truly staggering. Mining and burning coal causes sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, dust particles and mercury emissions and contaminates soil, air and water, see Report: Europe's Dark Cloud. For example, the total cost of coal use on Chinese society has been estimated at more than 7% of GDP, considering that ecological and health costs are included.

But the good news is: We do not need coal.

We have affordable renewable energy. We can save energy. We can use energy more wisely (e.g. by demand-side management). And we are already building modern, flexible, decentralized, community-based, environmentally-friendly energy systems that can serve our energy needs on site.

Phasing out coal is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to scaling up emission reductions in Europe in line with the Paris Agreement. We therefore need to make this a priority in every European country.

But the speed at which coal plants are closed down is not at all sufficient. The rate at which coal emissions must fall every year needs to triple to 8% in order to be in line with keeping global average temperature rise below 2 degrees (see Report: End of an era). With the agreement in Paris to pursue efforts to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees this needs to be scaled up even more.

The rush of building new coal-fired power plants in the EU is over (with some notable exceptions such as Poland) and has moved to South East Europe and Turkey. If we are to comply with what was agreed in Paris we cannot afford to build any of these proposed coal plants. South East European countries and Turkey need to turn their back on new coal projects now and start exploring the alternatives.

The CAN Europe Secretariat works with its members and fellow NGO networks:

  • to prevent the construction of new coal power plants, opening of new mines and building of coal transport infrastructure,
  • to campaign for a complete and rapid phase-out of coal in Europe and policy instruments and targets to achieve that,
  • to advocate for an end to any form of public or private funding of coal originating in Europe and for an immediate phase-out of direct and indirect subsidies to coal,
  • to support local communities to get out of coal and build instead decentralized, community-based renewable energy systems, to secure a just transition for people residing in coal mining dependent regions.


CAN Europe strongly supports the phase out of coal by both hosting the ‘Europe Beyond Coal’ campaign secretariat and by integrating the coal debate in our regular policy work as well as by supporting our members and allies in Turkey and the Western Balkans through the CAN Europe’s coal team.


Learn more

Dark Cloud report image
Report: Europe's Dark Cloud: Coal-burning EU countries make their neighbours sick

This report by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, the WWF European Policy Office and Sandbag presents an analysis of cross-border health impacts of all EU coal power plants. Coal pollution and its health impacts travel far beyond borders, and a full coal phase-out in the EU would bring enormous benefits for all citizens across the continent. Read More

No new coal projects!

Most of the new coal plants under construction or recently commissioned were given their construction permits before 2008. Since then, a majority of plans to build new coal power stations have in fact been shelved. Read More

Coal Free Europe
A coal-free Europe

The EU 28 is still heavily reliant on coal. In 2013, the share of electricity from hard coal and lignite was at 26% (Source: EEA), produced in the region’s 280 operational coal power stations. Read More

eu coalmap
CAN Europe's interactive Coal Map of Europe

CAN Europe's interactive Coal Map of Europe gives an overview of the role of coal in our electricity system. Read More

Useful Coal Resouces

Here you find a range of useful external coal resources. Read More



Joanna Flisowska
Coal Policy Coordinator
joanna / at /
Based in Katowice, Poland

 igor kalaba 

Igor Kalaba
Energy Policy Coordinator for Southeast Europe
igor /at/

+32 4714 38 442


Elif Gündüzyeli
Turkey Climate and Energy Policy Coordinator
elif /at/
Based in Istanbul, Turkey

Latest Publications on Coal Phase Out

  • Letter to EU ministers on Capacity Mechanisms

    Ahead of the trilogue meeting on the Electricity Market Regulation on 18 October 2018, 31 networks and organisations representing citizens from across Europe urge EU ministers to ensure that capacity mechanisms remain a last resort solution and that they no longer subsidise the burning of fossil fuels, coal in particular.
  • Europeans demand: stop burning our money with coal!

    Despite their unprofitability and their harmful impacts on our climate, environment and health, coal power plants still receive massive public subsidies. This is why more than 115,000 Europeans have signed the petition “Let’s move beyond coal!” to call on EU leaders to stop pouring taxpayers’ money into coal through so-called capacity mechanisms.
  • Europe needs to step up climate action as scientists deliver unequivocal evidence for the need to stay below 1.5°C

    One day ahead of the EU Environment Ministers meeting expected to adopt the EU’s position for the upcoming UN Climate Summit COP24, the world’s leading body of climate scientists gave strong scientific evidence for the need to keep temperature rise to 1.5°C. The new IPCC report, ordered and endorsed by all world’s governments, showed that many of the dire consequences of future warming can be avoided by respecting this limit. It also confirmed that it is still possible, but requires a rapid and far-reaching shift across all sectors of the economy. Audio recording of the press briefing on the IPCC report with Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Wendel Trio and Claire Roumet organized by CAN Europe on 8th October 2018 is available here
  • Capacity mechanisms must not become a lifeline to unprofitable coal

    Polish utility Enea gave today the green light to build the new coal power plant ‘Ostrołęka C’, despite the unprofitability of the project and protests of environmental groups. Poland plans to use capacity mechanisms to make up for the projected economic loss, a stunning example of why reformed EU capacity mechanisms must stop benefiting dirty and costly forms of energy.
See All: Coal Phase Out