The end of coal power generation is still a long way off despite landmark pledges made at COP26, a leading law firm has said.

Experts at transatlantic law firm Womble Bond Dickinson have said that although the agreements made at this year’s UN Climate Change Conference represent an accelerated shift towards global sustainability, the phasing out of coal has some way to go.

The summit saw over 40 countries - including major fossil fuel users Poland and Vietnam - promise to end all investment into new coal power generation and scale up the deployment of clean power generation. However, considerable users of coal generation such as China, India, Australia and the US were not party to the agreement.

In addition, Poland confirmed that it expected to continue using the fossil fuel for at least another quarter of a century in spite of its earlier agreement, and India made a last-minute intervention at the summit’s extended negotiations to change language on “phasing out” coal to “phasing down”.

Richard Cockburn, head of energy at Womble Bond Dickinson, comments:

“While the end of coal may be closer, there is still a way to go. There is widespread disappointment about the watered-down coal wording in the final COP pact.”

However, progress was made in relation to methane. More than 100 countries, led by the EU and US, pledged to reduce their overall methane emissions by 30% in 2030 compared to the 2020 baseline, with emphasis around tackling methane leaking from oil and gas production assets.

This is termed a “crucial pledge” by Richard as methane is estimated to have contributed nearly a third of total greenhouse gas emissions to date.

Richard adds:

“COP26 has been important for the signals which it sends to governments and markets around the world. In this light, investors are under no illusion that the future lies in low carbon and zero carbon energy technologies and widespread carbon pricing now looms closer.

"More attention is being paid to supporting developing countries but there is a way to go in persuading China and India to step up quickly. Generally though, regardless of the precise wording of the Glasgow Climate Pact, we can expect to see an accelerated energy transition and a more closely collaborative approach across the globe to addressing climate change".