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Plans to phase out coal power urged

Political leaders risk derailing efforts to tackle climate change unless they set out clear plans to phase out dirty coal powered stations by the early 2020s, campaigners have warned.

A coalition of groups including Greenpeace UK, WWF UK, Oxfam, RSPB and the Women's Institute have written to the leaders of the main political parties calling on them to set out in their general election manifestos how they meet pledges to phase out coal.

The call comes after David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg signed a joint pledge on climate change, in which they promised to "accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy efficient low carbon economy and to end the use of unabated coal for power generation".

In a letter to the party leaders, the campaign groups welcomed the move as "a huge step in the right direction", saying that removing coal emissions from the electricity sector was paramount for meeting climate change targets.

But they are "concerned that in the absence of a concrete and credible plan to take unabated coal power stations off the system, they will continue to emit carbon throughout the 2020s and beyond, threatening our efforts to tackle climate change and air pollution."

A YouGov survey for Greenpeace shows that the majority of people (56%) support the phasing out of coal fired power stations in the early 2020s as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions, more than double the proportion (24%) who oppose such a move.

The poll of 1,548 adults found that just 3% most favoured using coal to replace existing power generation that was coming to the end of its life, compared to around a fifth each for nuclear, wave and tidal technology, solar schemes and wind farms.

The Government's climate advisers have said there is no role for conventional coal power generation beyond the early 2020s if the UK is to meet its long term goals to cut emissions in the most cost-effective way.

But without additional measures some nine gigawatts of coal fired power stations, around half the existing fleet, could still be on the system in 2030, a study has suggested.

Lawrence Carter, Greenpeace UK energy campaigner, said: "The joint pledge to end dirty coal was a great step forward, but for it to have a real impact it needs a clear deadline and concrete policies to make it happen.

"Our political leaders should not be under the illusion that coal pollution will simply go away by itself, because research shows this won't be the case.

"With new subsidies for coal plants and a freeze on the carbon emission tax, ministers have thrown old coal a lifeline. If the UK is to meet its climate targets, we need to reverse these wrong-headed policies and consign coal pollution to the dustbin of history by the early 2020s."

Oxfam's policy lead for climate justice, Julie-Anne Richards said: "Climate change is already forcing the world's poorest people into a life of hunger and coal-fired plants are the single biggest contributor to a warming world.

"The UK must draw up a concrete plan to phase out coal so it can lead the world closer to safer futures for us all."

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