SEPTEMBER 15, 2020 -- NEW YORK, NY -- Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sierra Club today announced that the U.S. Beyond Coal campaign has successfully retired 60% of domestic coal-fired power plants – 318 out of 530 plants, to date. This milestone doubles the original goal, set in 2011, which pledged to retire 30 percent of the nation’s coal fleet by 2020 and accelerate the United States’ transition to a clean energy economy.
Over the past decade, a diverse coalition has come together as part of the U.S. Beyond Coal campaign to end America’s reliance on dirty coal and transition the country to a more equitable, clean energy future. In partnership with the Sierra Club, Bloomberg Philanthropies has invested over $174 million in the U.S. Beyond Coal campaign, impacting all 50 U.S. states and mobilizing national action. By retiring the use of coal-fired power plants and spurring a transition to renewable energy sources, the campaign has helped reduce 605M metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air -- the equivalent of eliminating nearly seven million pounds of coal burned – and has improved air quality and health outcomes for communities around the country. Beyond Coal plant closures in the U.S. have saved an estimated 7,600 lives, prevented nearly 12,000 heart attacks, and 125,000 asthma attacks, and resulted in an estimated annual savings of $3.6 billion in health care costs.
“When we set out to help transition the United States to a 100% clean energy economy by ending our dependence on coal, there were many naysayers – and when Donald Trump became president, they said it was impossible. But by hitting our goal of closing 60% of coal-fired power plants by 2020, we’ve proven what’s possible when we work together and lead from the bottom-up,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP, three-term Mayor of New York City. “This milestone shows us how far we’ve come – but also how much farther we could go with the federal government leading the charge, which is why this upcoming election is a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change.”
“As the fatal impacts of COVID-19 continue to rise in communities surrounded by high polluting facilities, improving air quality through coal-fired plant closures and renewable energy generation has never been more critical,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “Studies show there is a 15% higher chance of contracting the virus in areas with air pollution, which disproportionately impact communities of color and low income communities. Retiring our nation’s coal fleet is a huge step forward not just in the fight against COVID-19, but in making environmental justice and clean air a reality for communities around the country and the world.”
The 60% milestone was marked by the expected retirement of AES Hawaii -- the last remaining coal-fired power plant in the state and the largest single source of toxic pollutants on the island of Oahu. This victory has been years in the making and was led by Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter and Rep. Nicole Lowen, the legislative champion of the Coal Free Hawaii bill, as well as a former Sierra Club executive committee member.
“Ending coal in Hawaii is a big win for our communities and environment,” said Jodi Malinoski, Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter Policy Advocate. “Coal burning, and the resulting toxic ash, has harmed the islands for far too long. We are eager to make coal a thing of the past and are grateful for the community members, volunteers and lawmakers that helped make this milestone a reality.”
The retirement also accelerates Hawaii’s transition to clean energy as Hawaiian Electric has selected 16 solar energy and storage projects to help achieve 100% clean energy by 2045. Those projects will reflect Hawaii’s advancing shift to a clean energy economy.
“This landmark closure -- 60% of U.S. coal-fired power plants -- is a resounding victory that would not have been possible without our broad coalition of activists, policymakers, and climate champions,” said Mary Anne Hitt, the Sierra Club’s National Director of Campaigns. “With the closure of the AES Hawaii Power Plant, we’re on a clear path to a clean energy economy, one without dirty, harmful sources of energy like coal or fracked gas that destroy our health and our climate. We’re energized by this win and are looking forward to continuing to work across local, state, and national levels to avert climate disaster and create a prosperous future driven by renewable energy, including a fair and robust transition for fossil fuel workers and communities.”
Before Beyond Coal’s work began a decade ago, the U.S. had more than 500 operational coal-fired power plants emitting pollutants that were linked to as many as 13,000 premature deaths every year and more than $100 billion in annual health costs. Powered by thousands of grassroots volunteers, Beyond Coal has been called “the most effective campaign in the Club’s 123-year history, and maybe the history of the environmental movement.”
In 2019, Bloomberg took the fight from coal plants to all fossil fuels with the launch of the Beyond Carbon initiative. With a $500 million investment, Beyond Carbon is the largest climate campaign in the U.S., with the goal of closing all domestic coal plants by 2030 and stopping the use of gas as a transition fuel. By working on the state and local level, Beyond Carbon is accelerating the United States to a 100% renewable energy economy and has helped eight states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. pledge to transition to a 100% clean energy future.
Recognizing the impact of Beyond Coal in the U.S., Bloomberg Philanthropies expanded its support in 2017 to Europe Beyond Coal, which has retired nearly half of all of Europe’s coal plants to date. That success has inspired new grassroots campaigns in Australia and now South Korea, with the launch of Korea Beyond Coal earlier this month.
In addition to Beyond Coal, Bloomberg Philanthropies also works to address global health and climate needs through its Global Coal and Air Pollution program, which has phased out over 661 GGW of coal-fired power, or the equivalent of 1,100 coal plants. During the Trump Administration, Bloomberg’s America’s Pledge initiative and American Cities Climate Challenge have focused on empowering nonfederal actors like states, cities, and businesses to advance climate action in the face of opposition and climate denialism from the federal government.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.