Burning coal for energy fuels climate change, impacts people’s health, pollutes the environment and ruins economies by draining resources and crowding-out other economic activities, including accelerated deployment of renewables.

It is one of the main drivers of climate change because coal is one of the most greenhouse gas intensive fuels. Despite this, over 40% of the world’s electricity is still generated from coal. Globally, coal causes over 15 Gigatons of CO2 per year and accounts for about 40% of fossil CO2 emissions. In 2016, 16% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions came from burning coal.

Running out of time

Phasing out coal is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to scaling up emission reductions in Europe in line with the Paris Agreement. It has to be a priority in every European country. The most cost-effective way of restricting global warming to 1.5 deg C in accordance with the Paris Agreement and the IPCC 1.5 Deg C Report is for the EU and all OECD countries to phase-out coal by the year 2030 (and the rest of the world by 2050). 

If we are to comply with what was agreed in Paris we cannot afford to see any new coal plants built. Poland, Southeast Europe and Turkey need to turn their back on new coal projects now and start exploring the alternatives.

Running out of breath

Coal’s overall human and ecological toll is staggering. Mining and burning coal causes i.a. sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, dust particles and mercury emissions and contaminates soil, air and water, see our reports Europe's Dark Cloud and Last Gasp

Air pollution from coal plants knows no borders. As such, coal plants in any one country are a problem for all of us, affecting public health even in countries without coal plants. Please see our Chronic Coal Pollution and Real Costs of Coal: Mugla reports to see how the coal plants in the Western Balkans and Turkey exacerbate this issue. 

Running out of money

Coal is bad business. The coal industry is simply unable to compete with buoyant renewables, which are cheaper to build, cleaner to operate and more flexible by the day to cater for our energy demands. Coal has been unable to keep up for many years now, and mines have been closing left, right and center. But numerous subsidies keep this dying industry alive by continuously pumping billions of taxpayers’ euros. This money would be better spent funding a just transition away from coal and towards energy efficiency and renewables, securing the future for the coal workers and their communities instead of keeping them in the past.

Taking responsibility for the management of coal’s comprehensive and final departure from our energy supply and from our tax burden means no more hand-outs to coal industry. It means hand up to workers, who need our help with re-skilling for 21st century jobs; it also means hand up to local communities and coal-dependent regions, who need our help with diversifying local economies in order to keep their most precious resource – not coal but people. 

Running out of excuses

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.

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 by 2030 and policy instruments and targets to achieve that,
  • to advocate for an end to any form of public or private funding for coal originating in Europe and for an immediate phase-out of direct and indirect subsidies to coal,
  • to support local communities in building decentralised, community-based renewable energy systems and to secure a just transition for people in coal 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 and by supporting our members and allies in Turkey and the Western Balkans.  

Learn more


Just Transition or Just Talk? 

New report by Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe and Sandbag  reveals Member States are receiving EU energy transition support but  not committing to phase-out coal.

The draft National Energy and  Climate Plans (NECPs) of 21 EU Member States which still use coal for electricity generation show that only eight are committed to phasing out coal by 2030.


Last Gasp: The Coal Companies Making Europe Sick

European coal companies including RWE, EPH, and PGE, continue to push the cost of dirty energy onto society, with air pollution from their coal plants burdening people across Europe with both health problems and billions in costs, according to modelling detailed in a new report.

The report tallies up the hidden cost of the coal these companies burn, using state-of-the-art emission and weather data modelling to make each one’s responsibility clear. According to this, just ten companies were responsible for two-thirds of the health impacts of electricity production from coal in 2016.


Europe’s dark cloud: How coal-burning 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.

The report, ‘Europe’s dark cloud: How coal-burning countries make their neighbours sick’, analyses the health impacts from air pollution of all EU coal-fired power stations for which data is available. It reveals that in 2013 their emissions were responsible for over 22,900 premature deaths, tens of thousands of cases of ill-health from heart disease to bronchitis, and up to EUR 62.3 billion in health costs.



Joanna Flisowska
Senior Coal Policy Coordinator
joanna / at / caneurope.org
Based in Katowice, Poland


Magdalena Klarenbach
Coal Policy Officer
klara / at / caneurope.org
Based in Krakow, Poland


Viktor Berishaj
Energy Policy Coordinator for Southeast Europe
viktor /at/ caneurope.org

+32 4714 38 442


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


Elif Cansu
Turkey Policy Officer
cansu /at/ caneurope.org
Based in Istanbul, Turkey

Latest Publications on Coal Phase Out

  • CAN Europe feedback to the Commission’s call for contributions: Competition Policy supporting the Green Deal

    To ensure the Competition Policy’s alignment with the European Green Deal, the state aid regime must be revised, taking the Union’s 2050 climate neutrality and new 2030 GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emission reduction targets, as well as zero pollution and circular economy strategies into account. The Green Deal alignment should be reflected on all state aid regulations and not only on those for environmental protection and energy.
  • Coal in the Western Balkans is dead. It’s time to pull the state-aid plug!

    “The Energy Community Contracting Parties have legal obligations regarding the prohibition of state aid that distorts or threatens to distort competition, which must be respected.(1) State aid authorities in the Contracting Parties systematically turn a blind eye to this obligation.”(2)
  • The Energy Charter Treaty: a dangerous agreement that can't be reformed

    The third round of negotiations to 'modernise' the obscure Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is coming to a close. From 3 to 6 November, the 53 contracting parties of the treaty tried to find ways to make the agreement from the 1990s fit for the challenges of the 21st century - foremost the climate crisis. But there is no hope that the ECT will be brought in line with the Paris Agreement and the EU's climate commitments.
  • CAN Europe's Position Paper on trade and trade policy

    For decades, European trade policy has aimed to liberalise international trade, allowingEuropean companies to access foreign markets, raw materials and labour, leading toderegulation often against the public interest and contributing to negative social andenvironmental impacts both here and abroad. This form of unfettered economic globalisationhas deepened global inequality, concentrated wealth and brought the world to the brink ofclimate catastrophe and natural resource depletion, making us vulnerable to globalpandemics such as COVID-19.
See All: Coal Phase Out