Two US states join global alliance to phase out coal by 2030

BONN, Germany, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Twenty countries and two U.S. states have joined an international alliance to phase out coal from power generation before 2030, environment ministers said on Thursday.

Since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, which aims to wean the world off fossil fuels, several countries have made national plans to phase out coal from their power supply mix.

The Powering Past Coal alliance brings together many of these countries and others that will commit to phasing out coal, sharing technology to reduce emissions, such as carbon capture and storage, and encouraging the rest of the world to cut usage.

RELATED: A look at US coal mines

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US Coal Mines
A Caterpillar Inc. front loader scoops coal from a mound at the Arch Coal Inc. Sentinel Prep Plant in Philippi, West Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. Arch, the St. Louis-based holder of the second-largest reserve of coal in the U.S., filed for creditor protection Monday, with an agreement to erase $4.5 billion in debt. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Coaling towers stand at the Arch Coal Inc. Sentinel Prep Plant in Philippi, West Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. Arch, the St. Louis-based holder of the second-largest reserve of coal in the U.S., filed for creditor protection Monday, with an agreement to erase $4.5 billion in debt. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A truck waits to be loaded with coal at the Arch Coal Inc. Sentinel Prep Plant in Philippi, West Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. Arch, the St. Louis-based holder of the second-largest reserve of coal in the U.S., filed for creditor protection Monday, with an agreement to erase $4.5 billion in debt. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Coal spills out from a tower into a large pile at an Alpha Natural Resources Inc. coal preparation plant in Logan County near Yolyn, West Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. filed for bankruptcy in Virginia last week, becoming the latest victim of the coal industrys worst downturn in decades. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Coal spills out from a tower into a large pile at an Alpha Natural Resources Inc. coal preparation plant in Logan County near Yolyn, West Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. filed for bankruptcy in Virginia last week, becoming the latest victim of the coal industrys worst downturn in decades. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Coal sits in a pile at an Alpha Natural Resources Inc. coal preparation plant in Logan County near Yolyn, West Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. filed for bankruptcy in Virginia last week, becoming the latest victim of the coal industrys worst downturn in decades. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Signage stands outside an Alpha Natural Resources Inc. coal preparation plant in Logan County near Yolyn, West Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. filed for bankruptcy in Virginia last week, becoming the latest victim of the coal industrys worst downturn in decades. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PRINTER, KY - JUNE 3: CSX Transportation coal trains sit in a rail yard on June 3, 2014 in Printer, Kentucky. New regulations on carbon emissions proposed by the Obama administration have reportedly angered politicians on both sides of the aisle in energy-producing states such as Kentucky and West Virginia. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)
CATTLETSBURG, KY - JUNE 3: Caterpillar front-loading machinery operates on mounds of coal at Arch Coal Terminals June 3, 2014 in Cattletsburg, Kentucky. New regulations on carbon emissions proposed by the Obama administration have reportedly angered politicians on both sides of the aisle in energy-producing states such as Kentucky and West Virginia. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)
SHELBIANA, KY - JUNE 3: A bulldozer operates atop a coal mound at the CCI Energy Slones Branch Terminal June 3, 2014 in Shelbiana, Kentucky. New regulations on carbon emissions proposed by the Obama administration have reportedly angered politicians on both sides of the aisle in energy-producing states such as Kentucky and West Virginia. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)
CATTLETSBURG, KY - JUNE 3: A tractor trailer drives by a mound of coal after delivering a truckload of coal to Arch Coal Terminals June 3, 2014 in Cattletsburg, Kentucky. New regulations on carbon emissions proposed by the Obama administration have reportedly angered politicians on both sides of the aisle in energy-producing states such as Kentucky and West Virginia. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)
PRINTER, KY - JUNE 3: A road leads past a coal train sitting alongside the Blackhawk Mining, LLC Spurlock Prep Plant on June 3, 2014 in Printer, Kentucky. New regulations on carbon emissions proposed by the Obama administration have reportedly angered politicians on both sides of the aisle in energy-producing states such as Kentucky and West Virginia. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)
Coal is dropped from a conveyer belt into a pile at the Wildcat Coal Load-Out Terminal, owned by Intermountain Power Agency outside Price, Utah Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The facility receives coal via trucks from the local mines and transfers it to call cars on trains for transport to power generation facilities. Photographer:George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images News
Coal is transported by rail after being loaded at the Wildcat Coal Load-Out Terminal, owned by Intermountain Power Agency, outside Price, Utah, U.S., on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The facility receives coal via trucks from the local mines and transfers it to railcars for transport to power generation facilities. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Caterpillar earth mover moves piles of coal at the Wildcat Coal Load-Out Terminal, owned by Intermountain Power Agency, outside Price, Utah, U.S., on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The facility receives coal via trucks from the local mines and transfers it to railcars for transport to power generation facilities. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Caterpillar earth mover moves piles of coal at the Wildcat Coal Load-Out Terminal, owned by Intermountain Power Agency, outside Price, Utah, U.S., on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The facility receives coal via trucks from the local mines and transfers it to railcars for transport to power generation facilities. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Loaded Norfolk Southern coal trains sit before being unloaded at Lambert's Point Coal Terminal in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013. In 2011, coal was used to generate 30.3 percent of the world's primary energy, the highest level since 1969, according to the World Coal Association, an industry trade group. That share slipped only to 29.9 percent last year. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Kentucky Mine Supply Company building stands in Harlan, Kentucky, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. In 2011, coal was used to generate 30.3 percent of the world's primary energy, the highest level since 1969, according to the World Coal Association, an industry trade group. That share slipped only to 29.9 percent last year. Photographer: Luke Sharett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A CSX Corp. coal hopper car sits beside a Harlan County coal tipple in Totz, Kentucky, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. In 2011, coal was used to generate 30.3 percent of the world's primary energy, the highest level since 1969, according to the World Coal Association, an industry trade group. That share slipped only to 29.9 percent last year. Photographer: Luke Sharett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Deckhands aboard the Consol Energy Champion Coal tow boat walk along the center of the barges on the Monongahela River, during transport outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Coalâs prospects are improving after its share of U.S. power generation fell last year to 34 percent, the lowest since at least 1973, Energy Department data show. Hotter temperatures this summer that prompt American households to use more air conditioning will boost demand for coal and the railroads that ship it. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Coal sits inside a barge during transport down the Monongahela River by the Consol Energy Champion Coal tow boat outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S, on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Coalâs prospects are improving after its share of U.S. power generation fell last year to 34 percent, the lowest since at least 1973, Energy Department data show. Hotter temperatures this summer that prompt American households to use more air conditioning will boost demand for coal and the railroads that ship it. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A coal miner shines his head lamp on coal transported on a conveyor belt after being sheared off the wall during longwall mining operations at the Consol Energy Bailey Mine in Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Coalâs prospects are improving after its share of U.S. power generation fell last year to 34 percent, the lowest since at least 1973, Energy Department data show. Hotter temperatures this summer that prompt American households to use more air conditioning will boost demand for coal and the railroads that ship it. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Coal miners walk through a tunnel at the Consol Energy Bailey Mine in Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Coalâs prospects are improving after its share of U.S. power generation fell last year to 34 percent, the lowest since at least 1973, Energy Department data show. Hotter temperatures this summer that prompt American households to use more air conditioning will boost demand for coal and the railroads that ship it. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A coal miner stands in a crevice to avoid a transport car at the Consol Energy Bailey Mine in Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Coalâs prospects are improving after its share of U.S. power generation fell last year to 34 percent, the lowest since at least 1973, Energy Department data show. Hotter temperatures this summer that prompt American households to use more air conditioning will boost demand for coal and the railroads that ship it. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Coal is responsible for more than 40 per cent of global emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The alliance includes Angola, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Portugal and Switzerland, ministers said.

The U.S. states of Washington and Oregon, as well as five Canadian provinces have also signed up.

The alliance, which is not legally binding, aims to have at least 50 members by the next U.N. climate summit in 2018 to be held in Poland's Katowice, one of Europe's most polluted cities.

"To meet the Paris Agreement target of staying below 2 degrees, we need to phase out coal," Canada's Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna told a news conference to launch the alliance initiative.

"There is also an immediate urgency - coal is literally choking and killing our people. The market has moved, the world has moved. Coal is not coming back," she added.

POWERING PAST COAL

But some of the world's biggest coal users, such as China, India, the United States, Germany and Russia, have not joined.

The pace of Germany's exit from coal power has dominated talks in Berlin this week on forming a new German government.

The Powering Past Coal launch comes just days after U.S. administration officials, along with energy company representatives, led a side event at the talks to promote "fossil fuels and nuclear power in climate mitigation."

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The event triggered a peaceful protest by anti-coal demonstrators and jarred with many ministers who are working on a rule book for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to move the world economy off fossil fuels.

"We show that even if the United States withdraws (from the Paris Agreement), we stand united and this initiative underlines that," Danish Energy and Climate Minister Lars Christian Lilleholt said.

Graham Winkelman, who heads mining firm BHP Billiton's efforts to combat climate change, told Reuters the company supported initiatives such as Powering Past Coal but said the needs of different countries had to be taken into account.

"In relation to agreements to end the use of coal, we recognize that countries will take different paths depending on their current energy mix," he said, adding that reducing emissions was the "most important objective."

The alliance was kicked off by Britain, Canada and the Marshall Islands, which urged other nations to join them in a letter, which was seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

RELATED: New Delhi declares state of emergency due to smog

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New Delhi declares state of emergency due to smog
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New Delhi declares state of emergency due to smog
A man walks along a railway platform on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal
A general view of New Delhi during heavy smog, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
A street cleaner works in heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
General view of partment blocks during heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
People talk on a foot bridge in heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Vehicles drive through heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Traffic drives through heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
A man cleans dust from a school bus in heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
A woman walks along the road on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal
A man stands on railway platform on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal
A man exercises in a park on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal
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The Marshall Islands, a low-lying island nation vulnerable to the effects of climate change and rising sea levels, said coal was the biggest barrier to curbing rising temperatures.

"Keeping it in the ground is the safest way to keep us below the survival climate threshold set out in the Paris Agreement," said David Paul, environment minister of the Marshall Islands.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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