Twenty countries and two US states to gradually reduce coal usage, despite "biggest polluter" US support for fossil fuels.

People pass the German pavilion in the shape of the earth during a UN climate summit in Germany on November 15, 2017.
People pass the German pavilion in the shape of the earth during a UN climate summit in Germany on November 15, 2017. (AP)

Twenty countries and two US states have joined an international alliance to phase out coal from power generation before 2030, environment ministers said on Thursday at Bonn during a climate summit.

Led by Canada and Britain, the "Powering Past Coal Alliance" commits the nations, cities, and regions to weaning themselves off a commodity that still produces about 40 percent of the world's electricity – a major contributor to global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

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 US states of Washington and Oregon have also signed up.

The alliance, which is not legally binding, aims to have at least 50 members by the next UN climate summit in 2018 to be held in Poland. 

"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.

US continues to draw ire

Later on Thursday, US acting assistant secretary of state, Judith Garber will address delegates just three days after White House officials drew the ire of observers and delegates by hosting a sideline event defending the continued use of fossil fuels at a forum dedicated to the pursuit of greener alternatives.

Announcing Garber's participation, the US State Department emphasised that the Trump administration's position on the climate-rescue Paris Agreement "remains unchanged."

It said US would withdraw "as soon as it is eligible to do so, unless the president can identify terms for engagement that are more favourable to American businesses, workers, and taxpayers."

Trump announced in June that America would abandon the pact, but the rules say this cannot happen until November 2020.

The United States is the world's biggest historical greenhouse gas polluter, and second only to China for current-day emissions.

US withdrawal from accord to up global warming

The 2015 Paris Agreement, which took more than two decades to negotiate, commits countries to limiting average global warming to under two degrees Celsius over Industrial Revolution levels, and 1.5 C if possible, to avert calamitous climate change-induced storms, drought and sea-level rises.

A report on Wednesday said the US withdrawal will boost global temperatures, calculated on current country pledges, by nearly half a degree Celsius by 2100, for a total of 3.2 C.

"Our task has been made all the more difficult with the disengagement of the world's largest historic emitter from the Paris Agreement," said Maldives environment minister Thoriq Ibrahim, representing the Alliance of Small Island Developing States.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies