The issue of coal transitions is coming into focus in both national and international climate policy discussions. There are several drivers of this. At one level, the Paris Agreement marked a significant shift in the pace, scope and ambition of global climate change mitigation action. Consequently, it is now clear that coal will need to play a more and more diminished role in the global energy mix in the coming decades, despite carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies (Figure 1).
It is also increasingly clear that non-climate policy-related factors, such as rapid declines in the cost of renewable energy and battery storage, will continue to challenge the previously strong role of steam coal in the global energy mix (Randall, 2015). The business-as-usual scenario suggested in Figure 1 is therefore evolving quickly and the downside risks to coal demand appear to be increasing.
The accumulation of these factors has in turn led to a call for an assurance of “just transition”, especially from stakeholders—notably coal sector workers and their communities—whose economic livelihoods depend on the future of an industry that will be in decline.
In this context, parties to the UNFCCC will be called upon via the Facilitative Dialogue of 2018 to re-evaluate the adequacy progress and subsequently to revise their levels of ambition in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). This moment presents an important opportunity for governments to raise the overall ambition of their policies on coal transition. But how should they do this?