The warning comes just weeks after more than 40 countries pledged to phase down the use of coal at the COP26 summit.
The commitment was originally to phase out coal, but was changed late in negotiations to satisfy some heavily coal-dependent countries like China and India.
The amount of power produced by burning coal fell in both 2019 and 2020, due to decreases in several key markets.
But coal-fired generation is set to increase this year by 9% in China, where more than half of coal-fired power generation takes place, the IEA forecasted, and 12% in India.
It is meanwhile expected to jump by 20% in the EU and the US.
The IEA said the increase underscored the need for fast and strong policy action.
IEA director Fatih Birol said:
- Coal is the single largest source of global carbon emissions, and this year's historically high level of coal power generation is a worrying sign of how far off track the world is in its efforts to put emissions into decline towards net zero
- Without strong and immediate actions by governments to tackle coal emissions – in a way that is fair, affordable and secure for those affected – we will have little chance, if any at all, of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C
The gas industry argues this demonstrates the need for greater investment in gas supply, as a provider of baseload energy that is cleaner than coal and can complement renewables.
Decline is expected once more in 2022, as electricity demand growth slows down and more renewables are deployed, the Paris-based agency said.
Author: Joseph Murphy