Portugal has become the fourth member of the European Union to end its coal usage completely. This comes nine years early, as the country has pledged to do it by 2030. And comes after the COP26 was forced to change the language from “end” to “downscale coal usage.
Currently, the country gets 60 to 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources. With the rest coming from fossil fuels, but coal will no longer be among them. This will help significantly lower emissions in the country.
However, many are afraid that the coal plant will just be replaced with another fossil fuel source. Ultimately, undermining the accomplishment.
Why Did Portugal End Coal Usage Early?
Now, you may be thinking that they ended coal usage early to be an upstanding member of the world that did its part to fight climate change. However, that’s not entirely accurate.
The EU has safety guidelines that dictate how each member must achieve a safe air quality rating.
Portugal has failed to do this, and it only became better once lockdowns were put into effect. The EU is suing them to do it.
Specifically, they need to lower their nitrogen dioxide (NOX) emissions. Clearly, there is a link to the transportation sector, but coal plants are also a contributor. By ending coal usage early, they are actually just trying to avoid the penalty.
With that said, this is still positive news. Not only does this help lower emissions, but it helps decrease air pollution.
What Will Happen to the Coal Plant?
What makes this somewhat controversial is the future of the coal plant. The private company that owns the plant is considering transforming the plant into a wood pellet burner. It’s better than coal, but not exactly sustainable.
Of course, none of this has been decided yet, so take it with a grain of salt.
However, this goes into the heart of another issue: does it make sense to replace one fossil fuel with another? Well, it may result in lower emissions, but at the same point, it will probably introduce a new source that will be around for decades.
Let’s face it, building or refitting an existing plant isn’t cheap. Companies want to see a return on that investment and sometimes that can take years. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t have those years to spare.
Instead, we need to increase renewable energy capacity, from which Portugal currently gets the majority of its power. It works, so expand it.
What Other EU Members Have Ended Coal Usage?
Besides the newest member, Austria, Belgium, and Sweeden have already done this. Many other members have promised to follow suit, but not until 2030.
Yet, this isn’t exclusive to the EU. Many nations including Albania, Switzerland, and more have already ended coal usage. The problem is countries like China and India that forced the COP26 to change the language of the agreement.
These nations are not committed to seeing coal disappear anytime soon. Yet, these countries are critical in the world achieving its goals.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.