"By 2030 in the United States, we won't have coal," Kerry announced in an interview with Bloomberg at the United Nation's COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
"We will not have coal plants," he stated.
The U.S. has been trending away from coal as a fuel source in recent years, in favor of cheaper forms of power like natural gas, wind, and solar. The U.S. still relies on fossil fuel for roughly a fifth of its electricity. The share of U.S. electricity generation from coal is expected to increase from 20% in 2020 to 23% in 2021 due to higher expected natural gas prices, according to the Energy Department's data agency.
"We're saying we are going to be carbon-free in the power sector by 2035," Kerry stated. "I think that's leadership. I think that's indicative of what we can do."
"Over 500 coal plants in the US have shut in the last few years, another 58 are going to shut this year," the climate envoy announced.
Last week, more than 40 countries pledged at the COP26 to phase out coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, though the U.S. did not sign the pledge. Neither did China or India, which burn two-thirds of the world's coal, or Australia, a significant coal exporter.
Any primary policy hindering the coal industry could be sunk by moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, whose state of West Virginia is a major coal producer and relies on coal-fired power. Manchin beforehand killed a Democratic plot to pay energy companies to produce clean electricity and move away from fossil fuels, as he maintained companies are trending that way on their own.
The U.S. had been in discussions to possibly sign the pledge to phase out coal, with officials arguing to include an exception for coal plants that have the technology to capture and store carbon dioxide. According to the New York Times, that provision was eventually left out, and the White House decided against signing the pledge for fear of angering Manchin.
No coal plants with carbon capture capacity are currently in operation, and it remains an expensive undertaking.
The U.S. did sign an agreement committing to ending financing for "unabated" coal, oil, and gas abroad by the end of next year. Unabated refers to power plants that take no steps to capture their emissions, and instead just release pollution straight into the air.