Leaders pledge climate push, curb on coal plants

(Reuters) – The leaders of Britain’s three main parties have pledged to end power generation from coal plants that don’t use emissions-capturing technology, and to push for a global climate deal, according to a document published on Saturday.

The agreement did not give any timeframe for phasing out the plants. But campaigners welcomed the cross-party announcement and said Britain was the first major economy to make such an explicit promise.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the leader of the opposition Ed Miliband said that acting on climate change “is an opportunity for the UK to grow a stronger economy, which is more efficient and more resilient to the risks ahead.”

The pledge comes ahead of a national election in Britain in May and a day after almost 200 nations agreed a draft text for a global climate deal expected in Paris at the end of the year.

The British politicians will push for an internationally binding agreement in Paris which limits temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius, they said.

Many countries are seeking to cut greenhouse gas emissions but few have such a strong cross-party consensus. Some countries such as Russia have said the 2 degree target should not necessarily be the basis of a new global deal.

Coal-fired power generators, which emit almost double the amount of carbon dioxide as gas-fired generators, provided a third of Britain’s electricity in the first half of last year.

A report by the U.N. panel of climate scientists last year said that fossil fuel generation without carbon capture and storage would have to be “phased out almost entirely by 2100” to reach the 2C goal.

“This will be of international significance because the UK is now the first major economy to make explicit its commitment to end the use of unabated coal,” said Matthew Spencer, director of think-tank Green Alliance, which brokered the pledge along with environmental groups including Greenpeace and WWF.

The government has committed one billion pounds to carry out engineering studies for two carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects which capture carbon emissions generated during power production and store them underground.

Britain has a legally binding target to cut its emissions by 80 percent on 1990 levels by 2050 and has embarked on electricity market reforms aimed at spurring investment in low-carbon nuclear and renewable power production.

(Reporting By Susanna Twidale; Additional reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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