"The biggest thing the world can do is stop burning coal. That is the biggest, number one thing we need to do to try to meet the Paris Agreement targets," British climate minister Claire Perry said following the Bonn talks.
Coal-fired power stations emit around twice as much carbon dioxide, blamed for global warming, as gas generation.
In Britain, where the last deep pit coal mine closed in 2015, surface mining continues. The Banks Group works open cast pits in northern England, supplying Britain and Spain. It hopes to open a new pit at Druridge Bay on the North Sea coast next year. Britain's Oracle Power is developing a $1.6 billion coal mine and power plant in Pakistan's Thar desert. It is the biggest private sector investment by a British company in Pakistan, CEO Shahrukh Khan said he had the blessing of the British government, but no financial help.
Britain led calls for an end to coal-fired power generation at United Nations climate talks in Bonn last month. It also announced programmes worth more than 300 million pounds ($400 million) to help developing countries tackle climate change. But at the same time British companies are active in coal projects around the world, often with government help. Many in the mining industry see no contradiction. Coal prices are up around 40 percent in Europe this year . Britain's coal exports rose 15 percent in 2016 to 443,000 tonnes, worth 50 million pounds ($67 million) at current prices. Exports are expected to rise further this year after a 22 percent increase in the first half.
A government spokesman said Britain adhered to a 2015 international deal that bars financial help for exporters of equipment to heavily polluting coal operations. That deal, agreed by members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), does not prevent other forms of support, which is part of the work of the British government's Department for International Trade (DIT). The DIT takes part in overseas mining events, such as conferences, provides information on projects, builds contacts and administers advice. Its website, Exporting is Great, advertises tenders, which this month include one for 10,000 tonnes of coking coal sought by an Indian company, a feasibility and pilot study and pilot project for expertise in underground coal gasification, also in India, and a firm in Kazakhstan seeking coal processing technology.
In Britain, the use of coal in electricity generation has declined sharply since the introduction of a carbon tax in 2013. Britain plans to phase out coal power plants by 2025, unless they have technology to capture and store emissions.