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A field of sunflowers is within sight of the Mehrum coal-fired power station in Germany. Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

The global amount of coal-fired power generating capacity fell slightly in the first half of 2020 as plant closures outpaced additions, per new data Monday from the group Global Energy Monitor.

Why it matters: It's the first half-year decline on record, Christine Shearer, the group's coal program director, writes in Carbon Brief. Coal-fired power plants are a huge source of global CO2 emissions.

The latest: The net amount of global capacity fell by 2.9 gigawatts to 2,047 GW, the group reports.

  • "The fall — including a decline in India — was due to a combination of slowed commissioning due to the Covid-19 pandemic and record retirements in the EU from strengthened pollution regulations."
  • New plant additions were concentrated largely in China, the world's biggest CO2 emitter.
  • The net decline is a stark contrast from the average of 25GW of growth each half year for the past two decades.

Yes, but: A combined hundreds of gigawatts are under construction or in the planning stages, according to the group.

  • "Despite the decline in the global coal fleet, meeting global climate goals requires a much more rapid reduction in coal power use, with generation falling by at least half this decade in pathways that limit warming to well-below 2C, and up to three-fourths for 1.5C," Shearer writes.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 26, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Japan's big new climate goal

Climate protest in Tokyo in November 2019. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan's new prime minister said on Monday the nation will seek to become carbon neutral by 2050, a move that will require huge changes in its fossil fuel-heavy energy mix in order to succeed.

Why it matters: Japan is the world's fifth-largest source of carbon emissions. The new goal announced by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is stronger than the country's previous target of becoming carbon neutral as early as possible in the latter half of the century.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 27, 2020 - Energy & Environment

The climate peril of used cars

Reproduced from UN Environment Programme; Map: Axios Visuals

A big new UN report delves deeply into an under-the-radar problem: the long-lasting carbon emissions and pollution from used cars shipped from wealthy nations to poorer ones.

The big picture: The UN Environment Programme report finds that between 2015 and 2018, the U.S., EU and Japan together exported 14 million used light-duty vehicles, with 70% going to developing nations. Africa is the largest export destination.

Burnout, money, concern drive Harris turnover

Vice President Kamala Harris and another potential 2024 presidential candidate, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, appeared together Thursday in Charlotte, N.C. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Burnout, better opportunities and concern about being permanently branded a "Harris person" is driving some of the turnover in Vice President Kamala Harris's office, people familiar with the situation tell Axios.

Why it matters: Harris is not only a heartbeat from the presidency but, by virtue of her office, the presumed 2024 frontrunner if President Biden doesn't seek re-election. There's been an inordinate amount of disarray — and, now, turnover — throughout her tenure.